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A short time ago I published a book of 'Frag- 
ments,' which might have been called 'Hours of 
Exercise in the Attic and the Laboratory ' ; while 
this one bears the title of 'Hours of Exercise in 
the Alps.' The two volumes supplement each other, 
and, taken together, illustrate the mode in which 
a lover of natural knowledge and of natural scenery 
chooses to spend his life. 

Much as I enjoy the work, I do not think that I 
could have filled my days and hours in the Alps with 
clambering alone. The climbing in many cases was 
the peg on which a thousand other ' exercises ' were 
hung. The present volume, however, is for the 
most part a record of bodily action, written partly to 
preserve to myself the memory of strong and joyous 
hours, and partly for the pleasure of those who find 
exhilaration in descriptions associated with moun- 
tain life. 


The papers, written during the last ten years, are 
printed in the order of the incidents to which they 
relate ; and, to render the history more complete, 
I have, with the permission of their authors, intro- 
duced nearly the whole of two articles by Mr. 
Vaughan Hawkins and Mr. Philip (xossett. The 
former describes the first assault ever made upon the 
Matterhorn, the latter an expedition which ended in 
the death of a renowned and beloved guide. 

The ' Grlaciers of the Alps ' being out of print, 
I can no longer refer to it. Towards the end of the 
volume, therefore, I have thrown together a few 
' Notes and Comments ' which may be useful to 
those who desire to possess some knowledge of the 
phenomena of the ice-world, and of the properties 
of ice itself. To these are added one or two minor 
articles, which relate more or less to our British 
hills and lakes : the volume is closed by an account 
of a recent voyage to Oran. 

I refrain from giving advice, further than to say 
that the perils of wandering in the High Alps are 
terribly real, and are only to be met by knowledge, 
caution, skill, and strength. 6 For rashness, igno- 
rance, or carelessness the mountains leave no margin ; 
and to rashness, ignorance, or carelessness three- 
fourths of the catastrophes which shock us are 


to be traced.' Those who wish to know something 
of the precautions to be taken upon the peaks 
and glaciers cannot do better than consult the 
excellent little volume lately published by Leslie 
Stephen, where, under the head of 6 Dangers of 
Mountaineering,' this question is discussed. 

I would willingly have published this volume 
without illustrations, and should the reader like 
those here introduced — two of which were published 
ten years ago, and the remainder recently executed 
under the able superintendence of Mr. Whymper — - 
he will have to ascribe his gratification to the 
initiative of Mr. William Longman, not to me. 

I have sometimes tried to trace the genesis of the 
interest which I take in fine scenery. It cannot be 
wholly due to my own early associations ; for as a 
boy I loved nature, and hence, to account for that 
love, I must fall back upon something earlier 
than my own birth. The forgotten associations 
of a far-gone ancestry are probably the most potent 
elements in the feeling. With characteristic pene- 
tration, Mr. Herbert Spencer has written of the 
growth of our appreciation of natural scenery with 
growing years. But to the associations of the indi- 
vidual himself he adds 6 certain deeper, but now 
vague, combinations of states, that were organised 


in the race during barbarous times, when its 
pleasurable activities were among the mountains, 
woods, and waters. Out of these excitations,' he 
adds, ' some of them actual, but most of them 
nascent, is composed the emotion which a fine 
landscape produces in us.' I think this an exceed- 
ingly likely proximate hypothesis, and hence infer 
that those ' vague and deep combinations organised 
in barbarous times,' not to go further back, have 
come down with considerable force to me. Adding 
to these inherited feelings the pleasurable present 
exercise of Mr. Bain's ' muscular sense,' I obtain 
a somewhat intelligible, though, doubtless, still 
secondary theory of my delight in the mountains. 

The name of a friend whom I taught in his boy- 
hood to handle a theodolite and lay a chain, and 
who afterwards turned his knowledge to account od 
the glaciers of the Alps, occurs frequently in the 
following pages. Of the firmness of a friendship, 
uninterrupted for an hour, and only strengthened 
by the weathering of six-and-twenty years, he 
needs no assurance. Still, for the pleasure it gives 
myself, I connect this volume with the name of 
Thomas Archer Hikst. 

J. Tynhall. 

May 1371. 



I. The Lauwinen-Thor .... 1 

II. Disaster on the Col du Geant . .18 

III. The Matterhorn— First Assault, with J. J. 

Bennen as Guide . . . .27 

IV. Thermometry Stations on Mont Blanc . . 53 
V. A Letter from Bale . . . .59 

Note on the Sound of Agitated Water . 65 

VI. The Urbachthal and Gauli Glacier . .66 

VII. The Grimsel and the JEggischhorn . . 75 

Note on Clouds . . . . .82 

VIII. The Bel Alp . . . . .86 

IX. The Weisshorn . . . . .91 

X. Inspection of the Matterhorn "with Bennen . 114 

XI. Over the Moro . . . . .125 

XII. The Old Weissthor . . . .130 

XIII. Rescue from a Crevasse .... 141 

XIV. The Matterhorn — Second Assault, in Company 

with Bennen . . . . .153 

XV. From Stein to the Grimsel . . .166 

XVI. The Obkraarjoch. — Adventure at the JEggisch- 

iiorn . . . . . .174 

Nature, thou earliest gospel of the wiye, 

Thou never-silent hymner unto God; 
Thou angel-ladder lost amidst the skies, 

Though at the foot we dream upon the cod: 
To thee the priesthood of the lyre belong — 
They hear religion and reply in song. 

If he hath held thy worship undefiled 

Through all the sins and sorrows of his youth, 

Let the man echo what he heard as child 
From the far hill-tops of melodious Truth, 

Leaving in troubled hearts some lingering tone 

Sweet with the solace thou hast given his own. 

Lord Lytton's King Arthur, 

* The brain, 
That forages all climes to hue its cells, 
Will not distil the juices it has sucked 
To the sweet substance of pellucid thought, 
Except for him who hath the secret learned 
To mix his blood with sunshine, and to take 
The wind^ into his pulses.' 

Jamks Russeij, Lowell. 






In June 1860 I completed ; The Glaciers of the Alps, 1 
which constituted but a fraction of the work exe- 
cuted during the previous autumn and spring. 
These labours and other matters had wearied and 
weakened me beyond measure, and to gain a little 
strength I went to Killarney. The trip was bene- 
Scial, but not of permanent benefit. The air of 
those most lovely lakes was too moist and warm for 
my temperament, and I longed for that keener air 
which derives its tone from contact with the Alpine 
snows. In 1859 I had bidden the Alps farewell, 
purposing in future to steep my thoughts in the 
tranquillity of English valleys, and confine my 
mountain work to occasional excursions in the 
Scotch Highlands, or amid the Welsh and Cumbrian 
hills. But in my weariness the mere thought of 


the snow-peaks and glaciers was an exhilaration ; 
and to the Alps, therefore, I resolved once more to 
go. I wrote to my former guide, Christian Lauener, 
desiring him to meet me at Thun on Saturday the 
4th of August ; and on my way thither I fortunately 
fell in with Mr. Vaughan Hawkins. He told me of 
his plans and wishes, which embraced an attack upon 
the Matterhorn. Infected by his ardour, I gladly 
closed with the proposition that we should climb 
together for a time. 

Lauener was not to be found at Thun, but in 
driving from Neuhaus to Interlaken a chaise met us, 
and swiftly passed ; within it I could discern the 
brown visage of my guide. We pulled up and shout- 
ed, the other vehicle stopped, Lauener leaped from 
it, and came bounding towards me with admirable 
energy, through the deep and splashing mud. ' Grott ! 
wie der Kerl springt ! ' was the admiring exclamation 
of my coachman. Lauener is more than six feet 
high, and mainly a mass of bone ; his legs are out of 
proportion, longer than his trunk ; and he wears a 
short-tail coat, which augments the apparent dis- 
crepancy. Those massive levers were now plied with 
extraordinary vigour to project his body through 
space ; and it was gratifying to be thus assured that 
the man was in first-rate condition, and fully up to 
the hardest work. 

On Sunday the 5th of August, for the sake of a 


little training, I ascended the Faulhorn alone. The 
morning was splendid, but as the day advanced 
heavy cloud-wreaths swathed the heights. They 
attained a maximum about two p.m., and afterwards 
the overladen air cleared itself by intermittent jerks 
— revealing at times the blue of heaven and the 
peaks of the mountains ; then closing up again, and 
hiding in their dismal folds the very posts which stood 
at a distance of ten paces from the hotel door. The 
effects soon became exceedingly striking, the muta- 
tions were so quick and so forcibly antithetical. I 
lay down upon a seat, and watched the intermittent 
extinction and generation of the clouds, and the al- 
ternate appearance and disappearance of the moun- 
tains. More and more the sun swept off the swelter- 
ing haze, and the blue sky bent over me in domes of 
ampler span. At four p.m. no trace of cloud was 
visible, and a panorama of the Oberland, such I had 
no idea that the Faulhorn could command, unfolded 
itself. There was the grand barrier which separated 
us from the Valais ; there were the Jungfrau, Monk 
and Eiger, the Finsteraarhorn, the Schreckhorn, and 
the Wetterhorn, lifting their snowy and cloudless 
crests to heaven, and all so sharp and wildly precipi- 
tous that the bare thought of standing on any one of 
them made me shudder. London was still in my 
brain, and the vice of Primrose Hill in my muscles. 
I disliked the ascent of the Faulhorn exceedingly, 


and the monotonous pony track which led to the 
top of it. Once, indeed, I deviated from the road 
out of pure disgust, and, taking a jumping torrent 
for my guide and colloquist, was led astray. I now 
resolved to return to Grindelwald by another route. 
My host at first threw cold water on the notion, 
but he afterwards relaxed and admitted that the 
village might be attained by a more direct way than 
the ordinary one. He pointed to some rocks, emi- 
nences, and trees, which were to serve as landmarks ; 
and stretching his arm in the direction of Grrindel- 
wald, I took the bearing of the place, and scampered 
over slopes of snow to the sunny Alp beyond them. 
To my left was a mountain stream making soft 
music by the explosion of its bubbles. I was once 
tempted aside to climb a rounded eminence, where 
I lay for an hour watching the augmenting glory 
of the mountains. The scene at hand was perfectly 
pastoral ; green pastures, dotted with chalets, and 
covered with cows, which filled the air with the 
incessant tinkle of their bells. Beyond was the 
majestic architecture of the Alps, with its capitals 
and western bastions flushed with the warm light of 
the lowering sun. 

I mightily enjoyed the hour. There was health 
in the air and hope in the mountains, and with 
the consciousness of augmenting vigour I quitted 
my station, and galloped down the Alp. I was soon 


amid the pinewoods which overhang the valley of 
Grnndelwald, with no guidance save the slope of the 
m mntain, which, at times, was quite precipitous ; 
but the roots of the pines grasping the rocks afforded 
hand and foot such hold as to render the steepest 
places the pleasantest of all. I often emerged from 
the gloom of the trees upon lovely bits of pasture — 
bright emerald gems set in the bosom of the woods. 
It appeared to me surprising that nobody had con- 
structed a resting-place on this fine slope. With a 
fraction of the time necessary to reach the top of the 
Faulhorn, a position might be secured from which the 
prospect would vie in point of grandeur with almost 
any in the Alps ; while the ascent from Grindelwald, 
amid the shade of the festooned trees, would itself 
be delightful. 

Hawkins, who had halted for a day at Thim, had 
arrived ; our guide had prepared a number of stakes, 
and on Monday morning we mounted our theodolite 
and proceeded to the Lower Glacier. With some 
difficulty we established the instrument upon a site 
whence the glacier could be seen from edge to edge ; 
and across it was fixed in a straight line a series of 
twelve stakes. We afterwards ascended the glacier 
till we touched the avalanche-debris of the Heisse 
Platte. We wandered amid the moulins and cre- 
vasses unti-1 evening approached, and thus gradually 
prepared our muscles for more arduous work. On 


Tuesday a sleety rain filled the entire air, and the 
glacier was so laden with fog that there was no 
possibility of our being able to see across it. On 
Wednesday, happily, the weather brightened, and 
we executed our measurements ; finding, as in all 
other cases, that the glacier was retarded by its 
bounding walls, its motion varying from a minimum 
of thirteen and a half inches to a maximum of 
twenty-two inches a day. To Mr. Hawkins 1 
am indebted both for the fixing of the stakes and 
the reduction of the measurements to their diurnal 

Previous to leaving England I had agreed to join 
a party of friends at the iEggischhorn, on Thursday 
the 9th of August. My plan was, first to measure 
the motion of the Grindelwald glacier, and after- 
wards to cross the mountain-wall which separates the 
canton of Berne from that of Valais, so as to pass 
from Lauterbrunnen to the JEggischhorn in a single 
day. How this formidable barrier was to be crossed 
was a problem, but I did not doubt being able to 
get over it somehow. On mentioning my wish to 
Lauener, he agreed to try, and proposed attacking 
it through the Roththal. In company with his 
brother Ulrich, he had already spent some time in 
the Roththal, seeking to scale the Jungfrau from 
that side. Hawkins had previously, I believe, enter- 
tained the thought of assailing the same barrier 
at the very same place. Having completed our 


measurements on the Wednesday, we descended to 
Grindelwald and discharged our bill. We desired to 
obtain the services of Christian Kaufmann, a guide 
well acquainted with both the Wetterhorn and the 
Jungfrau ; but on learning our intentions he ex- 
pressed fears regarding his lungs, and recommended 
to us his brother, a powerful young man, who had 
also undergone the discipline of the Wetterhorn. 
Him we accordingly engaged. We arranged with 
the landlord of the Bear to have the main mass of 
our luggage sent to the iEggisehhorn by a more 
easy route. I was loth to part with the theodolite, 
but Lauener at first grumbled hard against taking 
it. It was proposed, however, to confine his load to 
the head of the instrument, while Kaufmann should 
carry the legs, and I should bear my own knapsack. 
He yielded. Ulrich Lauener was at Grindelwald 
when we started for Lauterbrunnen, and on bidding 
us good-bye he remarked that we were going to 
attempt an impossibility. He had examined the 
place which we proposed to assail, and emphatically 
affirmed that it could not be surmounted. We were 
both a little chagrined by this gratuitous announce- 
ment, and answered him somewhat warmly ; for we 
knew the moral, or rather immoral, effect of such an 
opinion upon the spirits of our men. 

The weather became more serene as we approached 
Lauterbrunnen. We had a brief evening stroll, but 
retired to bed before day had quite forsaken the 


mountains. At two a.m. the candle of Lauener 
gleamed into our bedrooms, and he pronounced the 
weather fair. We got up at once, dressed, de- 
spatched our hasty breakfast, strapped our things into 
the smallest possible volume, and between three and 
four a.m. were on our way. The hidden sun crim- 
soned faintly the eastern sky, but the valleys were 
all in peaceful shadow. To our right the Staub- 
bach dangled its hazy veil, while other Backs of 
minor note also hung from the beetling rocks, but 
fell to earth too lightly to produce the faintest 
murmur. After an hour's march we deviated to 
the left, and wound upward through the woods which 
here cover the slope of the hill. 

The dawn cheerfully unlocked the recesses of the 
mountains, and we soon quitted the gloom of the 
woods for the bright green Alp. This we breasted, 
regardless of the path, until we reached the chalets 
of the Roththal. We did not yet see the par- 
ticular staircase up which Lauener proposed to lead 
us, but we inspected minutely the battlements to 
our right, marking places for future attack in case 
our present attempt should not be successful. The 
elastic grass disappeared, and we passed over rough 
crag and shingle alternately. We reached the base 
of a ridge of debris, and mounted it. At our right 
was the glacier of the Roththal, along the lateral 
moraine of which our route lay. 


Just as we touched the snow a spring bubbled 
from the rocks at our left, spurting its water over 
stalagmites of ice. We turned towards it, and had 
each a refreshing draught. Lauener pointed out to 
us the remains of the hut erected by him and his 
brother when they attempted the Jungfrau, and 
from which they were driven by adverse weather. 
We entered an amphitheatre, grand and beautiful 
this splendid morning, but doubtless in times of 
tempest a fit residence for the devils whom popular 
belief has banished to its crags. The snow for a 
space was as level as a prairie, but in front of us 
rose the mighty bulwarks which separated us from 
the neighbouring canton. To our right were the 
crags of the Breithorn, to our left the buttresses of 
the Jungfrau, while between both was an indentation 
in the mountain-wall, on which all eyes were fixed. 
From it downwards hung a thread of snow, which 
was to be our leading-string to the top. 

Though very steep, the aspect of the place was 
by no means terrible : comparing with it my 
memory of other gulleys in the Chamouni moun- 
tains, I imagined that three hours would place us 
at the top. We not only expected an easy conquest 
of the barrier, but it was proposed that on reaching 
the top we should turn to the left, and w 7 alk straight 
to the summit of the Jungfrau. Lauener was hope- 
ful, but not sanguine. We were soon at the foot of 


the barrier, clambsring over mounds of snow. Huge 
consolidated lumps emerged from the general mass ; 
the snow was evidently that of avalanches which had 
been shot down the couloir, kneading themselves 
into vast balls, and piling themselves in heaps upon 
the plain. The gradient steepened, the snow was 
hard, and the axe was invoked. Straight up the 
couloir seemed the most promising route, and we 
pursued it for an hour, the impression gradually 
gaining ground that the work would prove heavier 
than we had anticipated. 

We then turned our eyes on the rocks to our 
right, which seemed practicable, though very steep ; 
we swerved towards them, and worked laboriously 
upwards for three-quarters of an hour. Mr. Hawkins 
and the two guides then turned to the left, and 
regained the snow, leaving me among the crags. 
They had steps to cut, while I had none, and, conse- 
quently, I got rapidly above them. The work be- 
comes ever harder, and rest is unattainable, for there 
is no resting-place. At every brow I pause ; legs 
and breast are laid against the rough rock, so as to 
lessen by their friction the strain upon the arms, 
which are stretched to grasp some protuberance 
above. Thus I rest, and thus I learn that three 
days' training is not sufficient to dislodge London 
from one's lungs. Meanwhile my companions are 
mounting monotonously along the snow. Laucner 



looks up at me at intervals, and I can clearly mark the 
expression of his countenance ; it is quite spiritless, 
while that of his companion bears the print of absolute 
dismay. Three hours have passed and the summit 
is not sensibly nearer. The men halt and converse 
together. Lauener at length calls out to me, ' I 
think it is impossible.' The effect of Ulrich's pre- 
diction appears to be cropping out ; we expostulate, 
however, and they move on. After some time they 
halt again, and reiterate their opinion that the thing 
cannot be done. They direct our attention to the 
top of the barrier ; light clouds scud swiftly over it, 
and snow-dust is scattered in the air. There is 
storm on the heights, which our guides affirm has 
turned the day against us. I cast about in my mind 
to meet the difficulty, and enquire whether we might 
not send one of them back with the theodolite, and 
thus so lighten our burdens as to be able to proceed. 
Kaufmann volunteers to take back the theodolite ; 
but this does not seem to please Lauener. There 
is a pause and hesitation. I remonstrate, while 
Hawkins calls out 'Forward!' Lauener once more 
doggedly strikes his axe into the snow, and resumes 
the ascent. 

I continued among the rocks, though with less 
and less confidence in the wisdom of my choice. 
My knapsack annoyed me excessively ; the straps 
frayed my shoulders, and tied up my muscles- 


Once or twice I had to get round a protruding face 
of rock, and then found my bonds very grievous. 
At length I came to a peculiar piece of cliff, near 
the base of which was a sharp ridge of snow, and 
at a height of about five feet above it the rock 
bulged out, so that a stone dropped from its pro- 
tuberance would fall beyond the ridge. I had to 
work along the snow cautiously, squatting down so 
as to prevent the rock from pushing me too far out. 
Had I a fair ledge underneath I should have felt per- 
fectly at ease, but on the stability of the snow-wedge 
I dared not calculate. To retreat was dangerous, 
to advance useless ; for right in front of me was 
a sheer smooth precipice, which completely extin- 
guished the thought of further rock-work. I ex- 
amined the place below me, and saw that a slip 
would be attended with the very worst consequences. 
To loose myself from the crag and attach myself to 
the snow was so perilous an operation that I did 
not attempt it ; and at length I ignobly called to 
Lauener to lend me a hand. A gleam of satis- 
faction crossed his features as he eyed me on my 
perch. He manifestly enjoyed being called to the 
rescue, and exhorted me to keep quite still. He 
worked up towards me, and in less than half an 
hour had hold of one of my legs. ' The place is 
not so bad after all,' he remarked, evidently glad 
to take me down, in more senses than one. J 


descended in his steps, and rejoined Ha'svkins upon 
the snow. From that moment Lauener was a rege- 
nerate man ; the despair of his visage vanished, and 
I firmly believe that the triumph he enjoyed, by 
augmenting his self-respect, was the proximate cause 
of our subsequent success. 

The couloir was a most singular one ; it wa<* 
excessively steep, and along it were two great scars, 
resembling the deep-cut channels of a mountain 
stream. They were, indeed, channels cut by the 
snow-torrents from the heights. We scanned those 
heights. The view was bounded by a massive 
cornice, from which the avalanches are periodically 
let loose. 1 The cornice seemed firm ; still we cast 
about tor some piece of rock which might shelter us 
from the destroyer should he leap from his lair. 
Apart from the labour of the ascent, which is great, 
the frequency of avalanches will always render this 
pass a dangerous one. At 2 p.m. the air became 
intensely cold. My companion had wisely pocketed 
a pair of socks, which he drew over his gloves, and 
found very comforting. My leather gloves, being- 
saturated with wet, were very much the reverse. 

The wind was high, and as it passed the crest 
of the Breithorn its moisture was precipitated and 

1 Hence the name ' Lauwinen-Thor,' which, with the consent of 
Mr. Hawkins, if not at his suggestion, I have given to the pass. [Tha 
name has since been adopted in all the maps. March 1871.] 


ifterwards carried away. The clouds thus generated 
shone for a time with the lustre of pearls ; but as 
they approached the sun they became suddenly 
flooded with the most splendid iridescences. 1 At our 
right now was a vertical wall of brown rock, along 
the base of which we advanced. At times we were 
sheltered by it, but not always ; for the wind was 
as fitful as a maniac, and eddying round the corners 
sometimes shook us forcibly, chilled us to the mar- 
row, and spit frozen dust in our faces. The snow, 
moreover, adjacent to the rock had been melted and 
refrozen to a steep slope of compact ice. The men 
were very weary, the hewing of the steps exhausting, 
and the footing, particularly on some glazed rocks 
over which we had to pass, exceedingly insecure. 
Once on trying to fix my alpenstock I found that 
it was coated with an enamel of ice, and slipped 
through my wet gloves. This startled me, for the 
staff is my sole trust under such circumstances. The 
crossing of' those rocks was a most awkward piece 
of work ; a slip was imminent, and the effects of the 
consequent glissade not to be calculated. We cleared 
them, however, and now observed the grey haze 
creeping down from the peak of the Brei thorn to 
the point at which we were aiming. This, however, 
was visibly nearer ; and, for the first time since we 
began to climb, Lauener declared that he had good 

1 See ' Note on Clouds,' p. 82. 


hopes — ' Jetzt habe ich gute Hoffnung.' Another 
hour brought us to a place where the gradient 
slackened suddenly. The real work was done, and 
ten minutes further wading through the deep snow 
placed us fairly on the summit of the col. 

Looked at from the top the pass will seem very 
formidable to the best of climbers ; to an ordinary 
eye it would appear simply terrific. We reached 
the base of the barrier at nine a.m. ; we had sur- 
mounted it at four ; seven hours consequently had 
been spent upon that tremendous wall. Our view 
was limited above ; clouds were on all the mountains, 
and the Great Aletsch glacier was hidden by dense 
fog. With long swinging strides we went down the 
slope. Se/eral times during our descent the snow 
coating was perforated, and hidden crevasses revealed. 
At length we reached the glacier, and plodded along 
it through the dreary fog. We cleared the ice just 
at nightfall, passed the Marjelin See, and soon 
found ourselves in utter darkness on the spurs of 
the ^Eggischhorn. We lost the track and wandered 
for a time bewildered. We sat down to rest, and 
then learned that Lauener was extremely ill. To 
quell the pangs of toothache lie had chewed a cigar, 
which after his day's exertion was too much for him. 
He soon recovered, however, and we endeavoured to 
regain the track. In vain. The guides shouted, and 


after many repetitions we heard a shout in reply. A 
herdsman approached, and conducted us to some 
neighbouring chalets, whence he undertook the 
office of guide. After a time he also found himself 
in difficulty. We saw distant lights, and Lauener 
once more pierced the air with his tremendous 
whoop. We were heard. Lights were sent towards 
us, and an additional half-hour placed us under 
the roof of Herr Wellig, the active and intelligent 
proprietor of the Jungfrau hotel. 

After this day's journey, which was a very hard 
one, the tide of health set steadily in. I have no 
remembrance of any further exhibition of the symp- 
toms which had driven me to Switzerland. Each 
day's subsequent exercise made both brain and 
muscles firmer. We remained at the iEggischhorn 
for several days, occupying ourselves principally 
with observations and measurements on the Aletsch 
glacier, and joining together afterwards in that day's 
excursion — unparalleled in my experience — which 
has found in my companion a narrator worthy of its 
glories. And as we stood upon the savage ledges of 
the Matterhorn, with the utmost penalty which the 
laws of falling bodies could inflict at hand, I felt 
that there were perils at home for intellectual men 
greater even than those which then surrounded us 
— foes, moreover, which inspire no manhood by their 
attacks, but shatter alike the architect and his house 


by the same slow process of disintegration. 1 After 
the discipline of the Matterhorn, the fatal slope of the 
Col du Geant, which I visited a few days afterwards, 
looked less formidable than it otherwise might have 
done. From Courmayeur I worked round to Cka- 
mouni by Chapieu and the Col de Bonhomme. I 
attempted to get up Mont Blanc to visit the 
thermometers which I had planted on the summit 
a year previously ; and succeeded during a brief 
interval of fair weather in reaching the Grands 
Mulets. But the gleam which tempted me thus 
far proved but a temporary truce to the war of 
elements, and, after remaining twenty hours at 
the Mulets, I was obliged to beat an inglorious 
retreat. — Vacation Tourists, 1860. 

1 This, I believe, wis in allusion to the leath of Sir Charlev 
Barry.— J. T., 18" 1. 




On llie 18th of August, while Mr. Hawkins and 1 
were staying at Breuil, rumours reached us of a 
grievous disaster which had occurred on the Col du 
Geant. At first, however, the accounts were so con- 
tradictory as to inspire the hope that they might 
be grossly exaggerated or altogether false. But 
more definite intelligence soon arrived, and before 
we quitted Breuil it had been placed beyond a 
doubt thai three Englishmen, with a guide named 
Tairraz, had perished on the col. On the 21st 1 
saw the brother of Tairraz at Aosta, and learned 
from the saddened man all that he knew. What 
I then heard only strengthened my desire to visit 
the scene of the catastrophe, and obtain by actual 
contact with the facts truer information than could 
possibly be conveyed to me by description. On the 
afternoon of the 22nd I accordingly reached Cour- 
mayeur, and being informed that M. Curie, the 
resident French pastor, had visited the place and 
made an accurate sketch of it, I immediately called 
upon him. With the most obliging promptness he 

J s t> 


placed his sketches in my hands, gave me a written 
account of the occurrence, and volunteered to ac- 
company me. I gladly accepted this offer, and early 
on the morning of Thursday the 21st of August we 
walked up to the pavilion which it had been the 
aim of the travellers to reach on the day of their 
death. Wishing to make myself acquainted with 
the entire line of the fatal glissade, I walked 
directly from the pavilion to the base of the rocky 
couloir along which the travellers had been preci- 
pitated, and which had been described to me as so 
dangerous that a chamois-hunter had declined 
ascending it some days before. At Courmayeur, 
however, I secured the services of a most intrepid 
man, who had once made the ascent, and who now 
expressed his willingness to be my guide. We 
began our climb at the very bottom of the couloir, 
while M. Curie, after making a circuit, joined us on 
the spot where the body of the guide Tairraz had 
been arrested, and where we found sad evidences 
of his fate. From this point onward M. Curie 
shared the dangers of the ascent, until we reached 
the place where the rocks ended and the fatal snow- 
slope began. Among the rocks we had frequent 
and melancholy occasion to assure ourselves that we 
were on the exact track. We found there a pen- 
Knife, a small magnetic compass, and many other 
remnaDts of the fall. 


At the bottom of the snow-slope M. Curie quitted 
me, urging me not to enter upon the slope, but to 
take to a stony ridge on the right. No mere in- 
spection, however, could have given me the desired 
information. I asked my guide whether he feared 
the snow, and, his reply being negative, we entered 
upon it together, and ascended it along the furrow 
which still marked the line of fall. Under the 
snow, at some distance up the slope, we found a fine 
new ice-axe, the property of one of the guides. We 
held on to the track up to the very summit of the 
col, and as I stood there and scanned the line of my 
ascent a feeling of augmented sadness took posses- 
sion of me. There seemed no sufficient reason for 
this terrible catastrophe. With ordinary care the 
slip might in the first instance have been avoided, 
and with a moderate amount of skill and vigour the 
motion, I am persuaded, might have been arrested 
soon after it had begun. 

Bounding the snow-slope to the left was the ridge 
along which travellers to Courmayeur usually descend. 
It is rough, but absolutely without danger. The 
party were, however, tired when they reached this 
place, and to avoid the roughness of the ridge they 
took to the snow. The inclination of the slope above 
was moderate ; it steepened considerably lower down, 
but its steepest portion did not much exceed forty- 
five degrees of inclination. At all events, a skilful 


mountaineer might throw himself prostrate on the 
slope with perfect reliance on his power to arrest hia 
downward motion. 

It is alleged that when the party entered the 
summit of the col on the Chamouni side the guides 
proposed to return, but the Englishmen persisted 
in going forward. One thing alone could justify 
the proposition thus ascribed to the guides by their 
friends — a fog so thick as to prevent them from 
striking the summit of the col at the proper point, 
and to compel them to pursue their own traces back- 
wards. The only part of the col hitherto regarded 
as dangerous had been passed, and, unless for the 
reason assumed, it would have been simply absurd 
to recross this portion instead of proceeding to 
Courmayeur. It is alleged that a fog existed ; but 
the summit had been reached, and the weather 
cleared afterwards. Whether, therefore, the English- 
men refused to return or not on the Montanvert 
6ide, it ought in no way to influence our judgment 
of what occurred on the Courmayeur side, where the 
weather which prompted the proposal to go back 
ceased to be blameable. 

A statement is also current to the effect that the 
travellers were carried down by an avalanche. In 
connection with this point M. Curie writes to me 
thus : ' II parait qua Chamounix on repand le 
bruit que c'est une avalanche qui a fait perir lea 


voyageurs. C'est la une faussete que le premier vous 
saurez dementir sur les lieux.' I subscribe without 
hesitation to this opinion of M. Curie. That a con- 
siderable quantity of snow was brought down by the 
rush was probable, but an avalanche properly so called 
there was not, and it simply leads to misconception 
to introduce the term at all. 

We are now prepared to discuss the accident. The 
travellers, it is alleged, reached the summit of the 
Col in a state of great exhaustion, and it is certain 
that such a state would deprive them of the caution 
and firmness of tread necessary in perilous places. 
But a knowledge of this ought to have prevented the 
guides from entering upon the snow-slope at all. We 
are, moreover, informed that even on the gentler por- 
tion of the slope one of the travellers slipped repeat- 
edly. On being thus warned of danger, why did not 
the guides quit the snow and resort to the ridge ? 
They must have had full confidence in their power 
to stop the glissade which seemed so imminent, or 
else they were reckless of the lives they had in 
charge. At length the fatal slip occurred, where the 
fallen man, before he could be arrested, gathered 
sufficient momentum to jerk the man behind him off 
his feet, the other men were carried away in succes- 
sion, and in a moment the whole of them were rush- 
ing downwards. What efforts were made to check 
this fearful rush, at what "point of the descent the 


two guides relinquished the rope, which of them 
gave way first, the public do not know, though this 
ought to be known. All that is known to the 
public is that the two men who led and followed the 
party let go the rope and escaped, while the three 
Englishmen and Tairraz went to destruction. Tairraz 
screamed, but, like Englishmen, the others met 
their doom without a word of exclamation. 

At the bottom of the slope a rocky ridge, forming 
the summit of a precipice, rose slightly above the 
level of the snow, and over it they were tilted. I do 
not think a single second's suffering could have been 
endured. During the wild rush downwards the be- 
wilderment was too great to permit even of fear, and 
at the base of the precipice life and feeling ended 
suddenly together. A steep slope of rocks connected 
the base of this precipice with the brow of a second 
one, at the bottom of which the first body was found. 
Another slope ran from this point to the summit of 
another ledge, where the second body was arrested, 
while attached to it by a rope, and quite overhanging 
the ledge, was the body of the third traveller. The 
body of the guide Tairraz was precipitated much 
further, and was much more broken. 

The question has been raised whether it was right 
under the circumstances to tie the men together. I 
believe it was perfectly right, if only properly done. 
But the actual arrangement was this: The three 


Englishmen were connected by a rope tied firmly 
round the waist of each of them ; one end of the rope 
was held in the hand of the guide who led the party ; 
the other end was similarly held by the hindmost 
guide, while Tairraz grasped the rope near its middle. 
Against this mode of attachment I would enter 
an emphatic protest. It, in all probability, caused 
the destruction of the unfortunate Eussian traveller 
on the Findelen Grlacier last year, and to it I believe 
is to be ascribed the disastrous issue of the slip on 
the Col du Geant. Let me show cause for this pro- 
test. At a little depth below the surface the snow 
upon the fatal slope was firm and consolidated, but 
upon it rested a superficial layer, about ten inches 
or a foot in depth, partly fresh, and partly disin- 
tegrated by the weather. By the proper action of 
the feet upon such loose snow, its granules are made 
to unite so as to afford a secure footing ; but when 
a man's body, presenting a large surface, is thrown 
prostrate upon a slope covered with such snow, the 
granules act like friction wheels, offering hardly any 
resistance to the downward motion. 

A homely illustration will render intelligible the 
course of action necessary under such conditions. 
Suppose a boy placed upon an oilcloth which covers 
a polished table, and the table tilted to an angle of 
forty-five degrees. The oilcloth would evidently 
slide down, carrying the boy along with it, as the 


loose snow slid over the firm snow on the Col du 
Geant. But suppose the boy provided with a stick 
spiked with iron, what ought he to do to check his 
motion ? Evidently drive his spike through the 
oilcloth and anchor it firmly in the wood underneath. 
A precisely similar action ought to have been re- 
sorted to on the Col du Geant. Each man as he fell 
ought to have turned promptly on his face, pierced 
with his armed staff the superficial layer of soft 
snow, and pressed with both hands the spike into 
the consolidated mass underneath. He would thus 
have applied a break, sufficient not only to bring 
himself to rest, but, if well done, sufficient, I believe, 
to stop a second person. I do not lightly express this 
opinion : it is founded on varied experience upon 
slopes at least as steep as that under consideration. 
Consider now the bearing of the mode of attach 
ment above described upon the question of rescue. 
When the rope is fastened round the guide's waist, 
both his arms are free, to drive, in case of necessity, 
his spiked staff into the snow. But in the case be- 
fore us, one arm of each guide was virtually power- 
less ; on it was thrown the strain of the falling man 
in advance, by which it was effectually fettered. 
But this was not all. When the attached arm re- 
ceives the jerk, the guide instinctively grasps the 
rope with the other hand ; in doing so, he relin- 
quishes his staff, and thus loses the sheet-anchor of 

26 nouns of exercise in the alps. [isac 

salvation. Such was the case with the two guides 
who escaped on the day now in question. The one 
lost his baton, the other his axe, and they probably 
had to make an expert use of their legs to save 
even themselves from destruction. Tairraz was in 
the midst of the party. Whether it was in his 
power to rescue himself or not, whether he was 
caught in the coil of the rope or laid hold of by 
one of his companions, we can never know. Let us 
believe that he clung to them loyally, and went 
with them to death sooner than desert the post of 




The summer and autumn of 1860 will long be re- 
membered in Switzerland as the most ungenial and 
disastrous season, perhaps, on record ; certainly 
without a parallel since 1834. The local papers 
were filled with lamentations over ' der ewige Slid- 
wind,' which overspread the skies with perpetual 
cloud, and from time to time brought up tremendous 
storms, the fiercest of which, in the three first days 
of September, carried away or blocked up for a time, 
I believe, every pass into Italy except the Bernina. 
At Andermatt, on the St. Grothard, we were cut off 
for two days from all communications whatever by 
water on every side. The whole of the lower Rhone 
valley was under water. A few weeks later, I found 
the Splugen, in the gorge above Chiavenna, alto- 

1 Instead of attempting to write one myself, I requested the per- 
mission of my friend Mr. Hawkins to republish his admirable 
account of our first assault upon the Matterhorn. I have to thank 
both him and Mr. Macmillan for the obliging promptness with 
which my request was granted. 


gether gone, remains of the old road being just 
visible here and there, but no more. In the Valte- 
line, I found the Stelvio road in most imminent 
danger, gangs of men being posted in the courses of 
the torrents to divert the boulders, which every 
moment threatened to overwhelm the bridges on the 
route. A more unlucky year for glacier expeditions, 
therefore, could hardly be experienced ; and the 
following pages present in consequence only the 
narrative of an unfinished campaign, which it is the 
hope of Tyndall and myself to be able to prosecute 
to a successful conclusion early next August. 

I had fallen in with Professor Tyndall on the 
Basle Eailway, and a joint plan of operations had 
been partly sketched out between us, to combine 
to some extent the more especial objects of each — 
scientific observations on his part ; on mine, the 
exploration of new passes and mountain topography ; 
but the weather sadly interfered with these designs. 
After some glacier measurements had been accom- 
plished at Grrindelwald, a short spell of fair weather 
enabled us to effect a passage I had long desired to 
try, from Lauterbrunnen direct to the iEggisch- 
horn by the Koththal, a small and unknown but 
most striking glacier valley, known to Swiss my- 
thology as the supposed resort of condemned spirits. 
We scaled, by a seven hours' perpendicular climb, 
the vast amphitheatre of rock which bounds the 


Aletsch basin on this side, and had the satisfaction 
of falsifying the predictions of Ulrich Lauener, who 
bade us farewell at Grindelwald with the dis- 
couraging assertion that he should see us back 
again, as it was quite impossible to get over where 
we were going. As we descended the long reaches 
of the Aletsch glacier, rain and mist again gathered 
over us, giving to the scene the appearance of a 
vast Polar sea, over the surface of which we were 
travelling, with no horizon visible anywhere except 
the distant line of level ice. Arrived at the 
iEggischborn, the weather became worse than ever ; 
a week elapsed before the measurement of the 
Aletsch glacier could be completed ; and we re- 
luctantly determined to dismiss Bennen, who was 
in waiting, considering the season too bad for high 
ascents, and to push on with Christian Lauener to 
the glaciers about Zinal. Bennen was in great 
distress. He and I had the previous summer re- 
connoitred the Matterhorn from various quarters, 
and he had arrived at the conclusion that we could 
in all probability ('ich beinahe behaupte') reach 
the top. That year, being only just convalescent 
from a fever, I had been unable to make the 
attempt, and thus an opportunity had been lost 
which may not speedily recur, for the mountain 
was then (September 1859) almost free from snow. 
Bennen had set his heart on our making the at- 


tempt in 1860, and great was his disappointment 
at our proposed departure for Zinal. At the last 
moment, however, a change of plans occurred. 
Lauener was unwilling to proceed with us to 
Zinal : we resolved to give Bennen his chance : 
the theodolite was packed up and despatched 
to Greneva, and we set off for Breuil, to try the 

Accessible or not, however, the Mont Cervin is 
assuredly a different sort of affair from Mont Blanc 
or Monte Rosa, or any other of the thousand and 
one summits which nature has kindly opened to 
man, by leaving one side of them a sloping plain 
of snow, easy of ascent, till the brink of the pre- 
cipice is reached which descends on the other side. 
The square massive lines of terraced crags which 
fence the Matterhorn, stand up on all sides nearly 
destitute of snow, and where the snow lies thinly on 
the rocks it soon melts and is hardened again into 
smooth glassy ice, which covers the granite slabs 
like a coat of varnish, and bids defiance to the axe. 
Every step of the way lies between two precipices, 
and under toppling crags, which may at any moment 
briDg down on the climber the most formidable 
of Alpine dangers — a fire of falling stones. The 
mountain too has a sort of prestige of invincibility 
which is not without its influence on the mind, and 
almost leads one to expect to encounter some new 


and unheard-of source of peril upon it : hence I 
suppose it is that the dwellers at Zermatt and in 
Val Tournanche have scarcely been willing to at- 
tempt to set foot upon the mountain, and have left 
the honour of doing so to a native of another district, 
who, as he has been the first mortal to plant foot on 
the hitherto untrodden peak, so he will, I hope, 
have the honour, which he deserves, of being the 
first to reach the top. 

John Joseph Bennen, of Laax, in the Upper 
Khine Valley, is a man so remarkable that I cannot 
resist the desire (especially as he cannot read 
English) to say a few words about his character. 
Born within the limits of the Grerman tongue, and 
living amidst the mountains and glaciers of the 
Oberland, he belongs by race and character to a 
class of men of whom the Laueners, Melchioi 
Anderegg, Bortis, Christian Aimer, Peter Bohren, 
are also examples — a type of mountain race, having 
many of the simple heroic qualities which we asso- 
ciate, whether justly or unjustly, with Teutonic 
blood, and essentially different from — to my mind, 
infinitely superior to — the French-speaking, versatile, 
wily Chamouniard. The names I have mentioned are 
all those of first-rate men ; but Bennen, as (I be- 
lieve) he surpasses all the rest in the qualities which 
fit a man for a leader in hazardous expeditions, 
combining boldness and prudence with an ease and 


power peculiar to himself, so he has a faculty of 
conceiving and planning his achievements, a way of 
concentrating his mind upon an idea, and working 
out his idea with clearness and decision, which I 
never observed in any man of the kind, and which 
makes him, in his way, a sort of Garibaldi. Tyndall, 
on the day of our expedition, said to him, ' Sie sind 
der Graribaldi der Fiihrer, Bennen ; ' to which he 
answered in his simple way, ' Nicht wahr ? ' (' Am I 
not ? '), an amusing touch of simple vanity, a dash 
of pardonable bounce, being one of his not least 
amiable characteristics. Thoroughly sincere and 
6 einfach ' in thought and speech, devoted to his 
friends, without a trace of underhand self-seeking 
in his relations to his employers, there is an inde- 
pendence about him, a superiority to most of his 
own class, which makes him, I always fancy, rather 
an isolated man ; though no one can make more 
friends wherever he goes, or be more pleasant and 
thoroughly cheerful under all circumstances. But 
he left his native place, Steinen, he told me, the 
people there not suiting him ; and in Laax, where 
he now dwells, I guess him to be not perhaps alto- 
gether at home. Unmarried, he works quietly most 
of the year at his trade of a carpenter, unless when 
he is out alone, or with his friend Bortis (a man 
seemingly of reserved and uncommunicative disposi- 
tion, but a splendid mountaineer), in the chase after 


chamois, of which he is passionately fond, and will 
tell stories, in his sim'ple and emphatic way, with 
the greatest enthusiasm. Pious he is, and observant 
of religious duties, but without a particle of the 
1 mountain gloom,' respecting the prevalence of 
which among the dwellers in the High Alps 
Mr. Euskin discourses poetically, but I am myself 
rather incredulous. A perfect nature's gentleman, 
he is to me the most delightful of companions ; and 
though no ' theory ' defines our reciprocal obliga- 
tions as guide and employer, I am sure that no 
precipice will ever engulf me so long as Bennen is 
within reach, unless he goes into it also — an event 
which seems impossible — and I think I can say I 
would, according to the measure of my capacity, do 
the same by him. But any one who has watched 
Bennen skimming along through the mazes of a 
crevassed glacier, or running like a chamois along 
the side of slippery ice-covered crags, axe and foot 
keeping time together, will think that — as Lauener 
said of his brother Johann, who perished on the 
Jungfrau, he could never fall — nothing could bring 
him to grief but an avalanche. 1 

1 As Bennen and Tyndall were going up the Finsteraarhorn 
once upon a time, the work being severe, Bennen turned round- 
and said to Tyndall, ' Ich fiihle rnich jetzt ganz wie der Tyroler 
einmal,' and went on to relate a story of the conversation between a 
priest and an honest Tyrolese, who complained to his father con- 
fessor that religion and an extreme passion for the fair sex struggled 


Delayed in our walk from the iEggischhorn by 
the usual severity of the weather, Tyndall, Bennen, 
and myself reached Breuil on Saturday, August 18, 
to make our attempt on the Monday. As we 
approached the mountain, Bennen's countenance 
fell visibly, and he became somewhat gloomy ; the 
mountain was almost white with fresh-fallen snow. 
' Nur der Schnee furcht mich,' he replied to our 
enquiries. The change was indeed great from my 
recollection of the year before ; the well-marked, 
terrace-like lines along the south face, which are 
so well given in Mr. Greorge Barnard's picture, 
were now almost covered up ; through the tele- 
scope could be seen distinctly huge icicles depend- 
ing from the crags, the lines of melting snow, and 
the dark patches which we hoped might spread a 
great deal faster than they weie likely to, during 
the space of twenty-four hours. There was nothing 
for it, although our prospects of success were 
materially diminished by the snow, but to do the 
best we could. As far as I was concerned, I felt 
that I should be perfectly satisfied with getting part 
of the way up on a first trial, which would make one 
acquainted with the nature of the rocks, dispel the 

within him. and neither could expel the other. 'Mein Sohn,' said 
the priest, ' Frauen zu lieben und im Himmel zu kommen, das geht 
nieht.' 'Herr Pfarrer,' sagte der Tyroler, ' es muss gehen.' 'Und 
so sag' ich jetzt,' cried Bennen. ' Es muss gehen is always hi* 
03 otto. 


prestige which seemed to hang over the untrodden 
mountain, and probably suggest ways of shortening 
the route on another occasion. 

We wanted some one to carry the knapsack con- 
taining our provisions ; and on the recommendation 
of the landlord at Breuil, we sent for a man, named 
Carrel, who, we were told, was the best mountaineei 
in Val Tournanche, and the nephew of M. le Cha- 
noine Carrel, whose acquaintance I once had the 
honour of making at Aosta. From the latter de- 
scription I rather expected a young, and perhaps 
aristocratic-looking personage, and was amused at 
the entrance of a rough, good-humoured, shaggy- 
breasted man, between forty and fifty, an ordinary 
specimen of the peasant class. However, he did his 
work well, and with great good temper, and seemed 
ready to go on as long as we chose ; though he told 
me he expected we should end by passing the night 
somewhere on the mountain, and I don't think his 
ideas of our success were ever very sanguine. 

We were to start before 3 a.m. on Monday morn- 
ing, August 20 ; and the short period for sleep 
thus left us was somewhat abridged in my own case, 
not so much by thoughts of the coming expedition, 
as by the news which had just reached us in a vague, 
but, unfortunately, only too credible form, of the 
terrible accident on the Col du Greant a few days 
before. The account thus reaching us was natiirallj 


magnified, and we were as yet ignorant of the names. 
I could not at night shake off the (totally groundless) 
idea that a certain dear friend of mine was among 
them, and that I ought. at that moment to be hurry- 
ing off to Courmayeur, to mourn and to bury him. 
In the morning, however, these things are forgotten ; 
we are off, and Carrel pilots us with a lantern across 
the little stream which runs by Breuil, and up the 
hills to the left, where in the darkness we seem from 
the sound to be in the midst of innumerable rills of 
water, the effects of the late rains. The dark outline 
of the Matterhorn is just visible against the sky, and 
measuring with the eye the distance subtended by 
the height we have to climb, it seems as if success 
must be possible : so hard is it to imagine all the 
ups and downs which lie in that short sky-line. 

Day soon dawns, and the morning rose-light 
touches the first peak westward of us ; the air is 
wonderfully calm and still, and for to-day, at all 
events, we have good weather, without that bitter 
enemy the north wind ; but a certain opaque look in 
the sky, long streaks of cloud radiating from the 
south-west horizon up towards the zenith, and the 
too dark purple of the hills south of Aosta, are signs 
that the good weather will not be lasting. By five 
we are crossing the first snow-beds, and now Carrel 
falls 'back, and the leader of the day comes to the 
front : all the day he will be cutting steps, but those 


compact and powerful limbs of his will show no signs 

of extra exertion, and to-day he is in particularly 

good spirits. Carpentering, by the way — not fine 

turning and planing, but rough out-of-doors work, 

like Bennen's — must be no bad practice to keep 

hand and eye in training during the dead season. 

We ascend a narrow edge of snow, a cliff some way 

to the right : the snow is frozen and hard as rock, 

and arms and legs are worked vigorously. Tyndall 

calls out to me, to know whether I recollect the 

• conditions : ' i.e. if your feet slip from the steps, 

turn in a moment on your face, and dig in hard 

with alpenstock in both hands under your body ; by 

this means you will stop yourself if it is possible. 

Once on your back, it is all over, unless others 

can save you : you have lost all chance of helping 

yourself. In a few minutes we stop, and rope all 

together, in which state we continued the whole 

day. The prudence of this some may possibly 

doubt, as there were certainly places where the 

chances were greater that if one fell, he would drag 

down the rest, than that they could assist him ; but 

we were only four, all tolerably sure-footed, and in 

point of fact I do not recollect a slip or stumble of 

consequence made by any one of us. Soon the slope 

lessens for a while, but in front a wall of snow 

stretches steeply upwards to a gap, which we have 

to reach, in a kind of recess, flanked by crags of 


formidable appearance. We turn to the rocks on 
the left hand. As, to one walking along miry 
ways, the opposite side of the path seems ever the 
most inviting, and he continually shifting his course 
from side to side lengthens his journey with small 
profit, so in ascending a mountain one is always 
tempted to diverge from snow to rocks, or vice 
versa. Bennen had intended to mount straight up 
towards the gap, and it is best not to interfere with 
him ; he yields, however, to our suggestions, and we 
assail the rocks. These, however, are ice-bound, 
steep, and slippery : hands and knees are at work, 
and progress is slow. At length we stop upon a 
ledge where all can stand together, and Carrel 
proposes to us (for Bennen and he can only commu- 
nicate by signs, the one knowing only French, the 
other Grerman) to go on and see whether an easier 
way can be found still further to the left. Bennen 
gives an approving nod : he looks with indulgent 
pity on Carrel, but snubs all remarks of his as to 
the route. ' Er weiss gar nichts,' he says. Carrel 
takes his axe, and mounts warily, but with good 
courage ; presently he returns, shaking his head. 
The event is fortunate, for had we gone further to 
the left, we should have reached the top of the 
ridge from which, as we afterwards found, there is 
no passage to the gap, and our day's work would 
probably have ended then and there. Bennen now 


leads to the right, and moves swiftly up from ledge 
to ledge. Time is getting on, but at length we 
emerge over the rocks just in face of the gap, 
and separated from it by a sort of large snow-crater, 
overhung on the left by the end of the ridge, from 
which stones fall which have scarred the sides of the 
crater. The sides are steep, but we curve quickly 
and silently round them : no stones fall upon us ; 
and now we have reached the narrow neck of snow 
which forms the actual gap ; it is half-past eight, 
and the first part of our work is done. 

By no means the hardest part, however. We 
stand upon a broad red granite slab, the lowest step 
of the actual peak of the Matterhorn : no one has 
stood there before us. The slab forms one end of 
the edge of snow, surmounted at the other end by 
some fifty feet of overhanging rock, the end of the 
ridge. On one side of us is the snow-crater, round 
which we had been winding ; on the other side a 
scarped and seamed face of snow drops sheer on the 
north, to what we know is the Zmutt glacier. Some 
hopes I had entertained of making a pass by this 
gap, from Breuil to Zermatt, vanish immediately. 
Above us rise the towers and pinnacles of the Matter- 
horn, certainly a tremendous array. Actual contact 
immensely increases one's impressions of this, the 
hardest and strongest of ail the mountain masses of 
the Alps ; its form is more remarkable than that of 


other mountains, not by chance, but because it is 
built of more massive and durable materials, and 
more solidly put together : nowhere have I seen 
such astonishing masonry. The broad gneiss blocks 
are generally smooth and compact, with little ap- 
pearance of splintering or weathering. Tons of 
rock, in the shape of boulders, must fall almost daily 
down its sides, but the amount of these, even in the 
course of centuries, is as nothing compared with the 
mass of the mountain ; the ordinary processes of 
disintegration can have little or no effect on it. If 
one were to follow Mr. Euskin, in speculating on 
the manner in which the Alpine peaks can have 
assumed their present shape, it seems as if such a 
mass as this can have been blocked out only while 
rising from the sea, under the action of waves such 
as beat against the granite headlands of the Land's 
End. Once on dry land, it must stand as it does 
now, apparently for ever. 

Two lines of ascent offer, between which we have 
to choose : one along the middle or dividing ridge, 
the back-bone of the mountain, at the end of which 
we stand ; the other by an edge some little way to 
the right : a couloir lies between them. We choose 
the former, or back-bone ridge ; but the other 
proves to be less serrated, and we shall probably try 
it on another occasion. As we step from our halt- 
ing-place, Bennen turns round and addresses us in 


a few words of exhortation, like the generals m 
Thucydides. He knows us well enough to be sure 
that we shall not feel afraid, but every footstep 
must be planted with the utmost precaution : no 
fear, 'wohl immer Achtung.' Soon our difficulties 
begin ; but I despair of relating the incidents of 
this part of our route, so numerous and bewildering 
were the obstacles along it ; and the details of each 
have somewhat faded from the memory. We are 
immersed in a wilderness of blocks, roofed and 
festooned with huge plates and stalactites of ice, so 
large that one is half disposed to seize hold and 
clamber up them. Round, over, and under them 
we go : often progress seems impossible ; but 
Bennen, ever in advance, and perched like a bird on 
some projecting crag, contrives to find a way. Now 
we crawl singly along a narrow ledge of rock, with a 
wall on one side, and nothing on the other : there is 
no hold for hands or alpenstock, and the ledge slopes 
a little, so that if the nails in our boots hold not, 
down we shall go : in the middle of it a piece of 
rock juts out, which we ingeniously duck under, 
and emerge just under a shower of water, which 
there is no room to escape from. Presently comes 
a more extraordinary place : a perfect chimney of 
rock, cased all over with hard black ice, about an 
inch thick. The bottom leads out into space, and 
the top is somewhere in the upper regions : there if 


absolutely nothing to grasp at, and to this day 1 
cannot understand how a human being could get up 
or down it unassisted. Bennen, however, rolls up it 
somehow, like a cat ; he is at the top, and beckons 
Tyndall to advance ; my turn comes next ; I en- 
deavour to mount by squeezing myself against the 
sides, but near the top friction suddenly gives 
way, and down comes my weight upon the rope : — 
a stout haul from above, and now one knee is upon 
the edge, and I am safe : Carrel is pulled up after 
me. After a time, we get off the rocks, and mount 
a slope of ice, which curves rapidly over for about 
three yards to our left, and then (apparently) drops 
at once to the Zmutt glacier. We reach the top of 
this, and proceed along it, till at last a sort of 
pinnacle is reached, from which we can survey the 
line of towers and crags before us up to a point 
just below the actual top, and we halt to rest a 
while. Bennen goes on to see whether it be possible 
to cross over to the other ridge, which seems an 
easier one. Left to himself, he treads lightly and 
almost carelessly along. ' Geb' Acht, Bennen 1 ' (Take 
care of yourself) we shout after him, but need- 
lessly ; he stops and moves alternately, peering 
wistfully about, exactly like a chamois ; but soon he 
returns, and says there is no passage, and we must 
keep to the ridge we are on. 

Three hours had not yet elapsed since we left the 


gap, and from our present station we could survey 
the route *as far as a point which concealed from 
us the actual summit, and could see that the 
difficulties before us were not greater than we had 
already passed through, and such as time and per- 
severance would surely conquer. Nevertheless, there 
is a tide in the affairs of such expeditions, and the 
impression had been for some time gaining ground 
with me that the tide on the present occasion had 
turned against us, and that the time we could 
prudently allow was not sufficient for us to reach 
the top that day. Before trial, I had thought it 
not improbable that the ascent might turn out 
either impossible or comparatively easy ; it was 
now tolerably clear that it was neither the one nor 
the other, but an exceedingly long and hard piece 
of work, which the unparalleled amount of ice made 
longer and harder than usual. I asked Bennen if 
he thought there was time enough to reach the top 
of all : he was evidently unwilling, however, to give 
up hopes ; and Tyndall said he would give no 
opinion either way ; so we again moved on. 

At length we came to the base of a mighty knob, 
huger and uglier than its fellows, to which a little 
arete of snow served as a sort of drawbridge. I 
began to fear lest in the ardour of pursuit we 
might be carried on too long, and Bennen might 
forget the paramount object ©f securing our safe 


retreat. I called out to him that I thought I 
should stop somewhere here, that if he ■ could go 
faster alone he might do so, but he must turn in 
good time. Bennen, however, was already climbing 
with desperate energy up the sides of the kerb ; 
Tyndall would not be behind him ; so I loosed the 
rope and let them go on. Carrel moved back across 
the little arete, and sat down, and began to smoke : 
I remained for a while standing with my back 
against the knob, and gazed by myself upon the 
scene around. 

As my blood cooled, and the sounds of human 
footsteps and voices grew fainter, I began to realise 
the height and the wonderful isolation of our 
position. The air was preternaturalljfc still ; an 
occasional gust came eddying round the corner of 
the mountain, but all else seemed strangely rigid 
and motionless, and out of keeping with the beating 
heart and moving limbs, the life and activity of 
man. Those stones and ice have no mercy in them, 
no sympathy with human adventure ; they submit 
passively to what man can do ; but let him go a step 
too far, let heart or hand fail, mist gather or sun go 
down, and they will exact the penalty to the utter- 
most. The feeling of ' the sublime ' in such cases 
depends very much, I think, on a certain balance 
between the forces of nature and man's ability to 
cope with them : if they are too weak, the sceDe 


fails to impress ; if they are too strong for him, 
what was sublime becomes only terrible. Looking 
at the Dome du (route or the Zumstein Spitze full 
in the evening sun, when they glow with an abso- 
lutely unearthly loveliness, like a city in the heavens, 
I have sometimes thought that, place but the 
spectator alone just now upon those shining 
heights, with escape before night all but impossible, 
and he will see no glory in the scene — only the 
angry eye of the setting sun fixed on dark rocks and 
dead-white snow. 

We had risen seemingly to an immense height 
above the gap, and the ridge which stretches from the 
Matterhorn to the Dent d'Erin lay flat below ; but 
the peak still towered behind me, and, measuring our 
position by the eye along the side of our neighbour 
of equal height, the Weisshorn, I saw that we must 
be yet a long way beneath the top. The gap itself, 
and all traces of the way by which we had ascended, 
were invisible ; I could see only the stone where 
Carrel sat, and the tops of one or two crags rising 
from below. The view was, of course, magnificent, 
and on three sides wholly unimpeded : with one hand 
I could drop a stone which would descend to Zmutt, 
with the other to Breuil. In front lay, as in a map, 
the as yet unexplored peaks to south and west of the 
Dent d'Erin, the range which separates Val Tour- 
oanche from the Valpelline, and the glacier region 


beyond, called in Ziegler's map Zardezan, over which 
a pass, perchance, exists to Zermatt. An illimitable 
range of blue hills spread far away into Italy. 

I walked along the little arete, and sat down ; it 
was only broad enough for the foot, and in perfectly 
cold blood even this perhaps might have appeared 
uncomfortable. Turning to look at Tyndall and 
Bennen, I could not help laughing at the picture 
of our progress under difficulties. They seemed to 
have advanced only a few yards. c Have you got no 
further than that yet ? ' I called out, for we were all 
the time within hearing. Their efforts appeared 
prodigious : scrambling and sprawling among the 
huge blocks, one fancied they must be moving along 
some unseen bale of heavy goods instead of only the 
weight of their own bodies. As I looked, an ominous 
visitant appeared : down came a fragment of rock, 
the size of a man's body, and dashed past me on 
the couloir, sending the snow flying. For a moment 
I thought they might have dislodged it ; but looking 
again I saw it had passed over their heads, and come 
from the crags above. Neither of them, I believe, 
observed the monster ; but Tyndall told me after- 
wards that a stone, possibly a splinter from it, had 
hit him in the neck, and nearly choked him. I 
looked anxiously again, but no more followed. A 
single shot, as it were, had been fired across our bows ; 
but the ship's course was already on the point of 
being put about. 


Expecting fully that they would not perse\ere 
beyond a few minutes longer, I called out to Tyndall 
to know how soon they meant to be back. ' In an 
hour and a half,' he replied, whether in jest or 
earnest, and they disappeared round a projecting 
corner. A sudden qualm seized me, and for a few 
minutes I felt extremely uncomfortable : what if 
the ascent should suddenly become easier, and they 
should go on, and reach the top without me ? I 
thought of summoning Carrel, and pursuing them ; 
but the worthy man sat quietly, and seemed to have 
had enough of it. My suspense, however, was not 
long : after two or three minutes the clatter, which 
had never entirely ceased, became louder, and their 
forms again appeared : they were evidently de- 
scending. In fact, Bennen had at length turned, 
and said to Tyndall, ' Ich denke die Zeit ist zu kurz.' 
I was glad that he had gone on as long as he chose, 
and not been turned back on my responsibility. They 
had found one part of this last ascent the worst of 
any, but the way was open thenceforward to the 
farthest visible point, which can be no long way 
below the actual top. 

It was now just about mid-day, and ample time for 
the descent, in all probablity, was before us ; but we 
resolved not to halt for any length of time till we 
should reach the gap. Descending, unlike ascend- 
ing, is generally not so bad as it seems ; but in some 
places here only one can advance at a time, the 


other carefully holding the rope. ' Tenez forte- 
merit, Carrel, tenez,' is constantly impressed on the 
man who brings up the rear. ' Splendid practice for 
us, this,' exclaims Tyndall exultingly, as each succes- 
sive difficulty is overcome. At length we reach a 
place whence no egress is possible ; we look in vain 
for traces of the way we had come : it is our friend 
the ice-coated chimney. Bennen gets down first, in 
the same mysterious fashion as he got up, and assists 
us down ; presently a shout is heard behind ; Carrel 
is attempting to get down by himself, and has stuck 
fast ; Bennen has to extricate him. We are now 
getting rapidly lower ; soon the difficulties diminish ; 
our gap appears in sight, and once more we reach 
the broad granite slab beside the narrow col, and 
breathe more freely. 

Two hours have brought us down thus far ; but if 
we are to return by the way we came, three or four 
hours of hard work are still needed before we arrive 
at anything like ordinary snow-walking. We hold 
a consultation. Bennen thinks the rocks, now that 
the ice is melting in the afternoon sun, will be 
difficult, and ' withal somewhat dangerous ' (etwa 
gefahrlich auch). The reader will remark that 
Bennen uses the word ' dangerous ' in its legitimate 
sense. A place is dangerous where a good climber 
cannot be secure of his footing ; a place is not 
dangerous where a good climber is in no danger of 


slipping, although to slip may be fatal. We deter- 
mine to see if it be possible to descend the sides of 
the snow-crater, on the brink of which we now stand. 
The crater is portentously steep, deeply lined with 
fresh snow, which glistens and melts in the powerful 
sun. The experiment is slightly hazardous, but we 
resolve to try. The crater appears to narrow gradu- 
ally to a sort of funnel far down below, through 
which we expect to issue into the glacier beneath. 
At the sides of the funnel are rocks, which some one 
suggests might serve to break our fall, should the 
snow go down with us, but their tender mercies seem 
to me doubtful. Cautiously, with steady, balanced 
tread, we commit ourselves to the slope, distributing 
the weight of the body over as large a space of snow 
as possible, by fixing in the pole high up, and the 
feet far apart, for a slip or stumble now will pro- 
bably dissolve the adhesion of the fresh, not yet 
compacted mass, and we shall go down to the bottom 
in an avalanche. Six paces to the right, then again 
to the left ; we are at the mercy of those overhang- 
ing rocks just now, and the recent tracks of stones 
look rather suspicious ; but all is silent, and soon 
we gain confidence, and congratulate ourselves on 
an expedient which has saved us hours of time and 
toil. Just to our right the snow is sliding by, first 
Blowly, then faster ; keep well out of the track of 
\t, for underneath is a hard polished surface, and 


if your foot chance to light there, off you will pro- 
bably shoot. The snow travels much faster than we 
do, or have any desire to do ; we are like a coach 
travelling alongside of an express train ; in popular 
phrase, we are going side by side with a small ava- 
lanche, though a real avalanche is a very different 
matter. Soon we come somewhat under the lee of the 
rocks, and now all risk is over, we are through the 
funnel, and floundering waist-deep, heedless of cre- 
vasses in the comparatively level slopes beyond. We 
plunge securely down now in the deep snow, where 
care and caution had been requisite in crossing the 
frozen surface in the morning ; at length we cast 
off the rope, and are on terra firma. 

We shall be at Breuil in unexpectedly good time, 
before five o'clock ; but it is well we are off the 
mountain early, for clouds and mist are already 
gathering round the peak, and the weather is about 
to break. Tyndall rushes rapidly down the slopes, 
and is lost to view ; Bennen and I walk slowly, dis- 
cussing the results of the day. I am glad to see 
that he is in high spirits, and confident of our future 
success. He agrees with me to reach the top will 
be an exceedingly long day's work, and that we must 
allow ten hours at least for the actual peak, six to 
ascend, four to descend ; we must start next time, 
he says, ' ganz, ganz friih,' and manage to reach the 
gap by seven o'clock. Presently we deviate a little 

/ 6 5"£ 


from our downward course ; the same thought occu- 
pies our minds ; we perceive a long low line of roof on 
the mountain-side, and are not mistaken in supposing 
that our favourite food will at this hour be found there 
in abundance. The shepherds on the Italian hills 
are more hospitable and courteous, I think, than their 
Swiss brethren : twenty cows are moving their tails 
contentedly in line under the shed, for Breuil is a 
rich pasture valley, and in an autumn evening I 
have counted six herds of from ninety to a hundred 
each, in separate clusters, like ants, along the stream 
in the distance. The friendly man, in hoarse but 
hearty tones, urges us on as we drink ; Bennen puts 
into his hand forty centimes for us both (for we 
have disposed of no small quantity) : but he is with 
difficulty persuaded to accept so large a sum, and 
calls after us, ' C'est trop, c'est trop, messieurs.' 
Long may civilisation and half-francs fail of reach- 
ing his simple abode ; for, alas ! the great tourist- 
world is corrupting the primitive chalet-life of the 
Alps, and the Alpine man returning to his old 
haunts, finds a rise in the price even of ' niedl ' and 
6 mascarpa.' 

The day after our expedition Bennen and myself 
recrossed the Theodule in a heavy snow-storm. 
Tyndall started for Chamouni, for the weather was 
too bad to justify an indefinite delay at Breuil in 
the hope of making another attempt that year, and 


by waiting till another season we were sure of 
obtaining less unfavourable conditions of snow and 
ice upon the mountain. — We had enjoyed an excit- 
ing and adventurous day, and I myself was not 
sorry to have something still left to do, while we 
had the satisfaction of being the first to set foot on 
this, the most imposing and mightiest giant of the 
Alps — the 'inaccessible' Mont Cervin. — Vacation 
Tourists, 18G0. 




The thermometers referred to at p. 17 were placed 
on Mont Blanc in 1859. I had proposed to the 
Royal Society some time previously to establish 
a series of stations between the top and bottom of 
the mountain, and the council of the society was 
kind enough to give me its countenance and aid in 
the undertaking. At Chamouni I had a number of 
wooden piles shod with iron. The one intended for 
the summit was twelve feet long and three inches 
square ; the others, each ten feet long, were in- 
tended for five stations between the top of the 
mountain and the bottom of the Glacier de Bossons. 
Each post was furnished with a small cross-piece, to 
which a horizontal minimum thermometer might 
be attached. Six-and-twenty porters were found 
necessary to carry all the apparatus to the Grands 
Mulets, whence fourteen of them were immediately 
sent back. The other twelve, with one exception, 

reached the summit, whence six of them were sent 


back. Six therefore remained. In addition to 
these we had three guides, Auguste Balmat being 
the principal one ; these, with Dr. Frankland and 
myself, made up eleven persons in all. Though the 
main object of the expedition was to plant the posts 
and fix the thermometers, I was very anxious to 
make some observations on the transparency of the 
lower strata of the atmosphere to the solar heat- 
rays. I therefore arranged a series of observations 
with the Abbe Veuillet, of Chamouni ; he was to 
operate in the valley, while I observed at the 
top. Our instruments were of the same kind ; in 
this way I hoped to determine the influence of the 
stratum of air interposed between the top and bottom 
of the mountain upon the solar radiation. 

Wishing to commence the observations at day- 
break, I had a tent carried to the summit, where I 
proposed to spend the night. The tent was ten feet 
in diameter, and into it the whole eleven of us were 
packed. The north wind blew rather fiercely over 
the summit, but we dropped down a few yards to 
leeward, and thus found shelter. Throughout the 
night we did not suffer at all from cold, though we 
had no fire, and the adjacent snow was 15° Cent., 
or 27° Fahr., below the freezing point of water. 
We were all however indisposed. I was indeed very 
unwell when I quitted Chamouni ; but had I fal- 
tered my party would have melted away. I had 


frequently cast off illness on previous occasions, and 
hoped to do so now. But in this I was unsuccess- 
ful ; m j illness was more deep-rooted than ordinary, 
and it augmented during the entire period of the 
ascent. Towards morning, however, I became 
stronger, while with some of my companions the 
reverse was the case. At daybreak the wind in- 
creased in force, and as the fine snow was perfectly 
dry, it was driven over us in clouds. Had no other 
obstacle existed, this alone would have been suffi- 
cient to render the observations on solar radiation 
impossible. We were therefore obliged to limit 
ourselves to the principal object of the expedition — 
the erection of the post for the thermometers. It 
was sunk six feet in the snow, while the remaining 
six feet were exposed to the air. A minimum 
thermometer was screwed firmly on to the cross- 
piece of the post ; a maximum thermometer was 
screwed on beneath this, and under this again a wet 
and dry bulb thermometer. Two minimum thermo- 
meters were also placed in the snow — one at a 
depth of six, and the other at a depth of four feet 
below the surface — these being intended to give 
some information as to the depth to which the 
winter cold penetrates. At each of the other 
stations we placed a minimum thermometer in the 
ice or snow, and a maximum and a minimum in the 


The stations were as follows : — The summit, the 
Corridor, the Grand Plateau, the glacier near the 
Grands Mulets, and two additional ones between the 
Grands Mulets and the end of the Glacier de Bos- 
sons. We took up some rockets, to see whether the 
ascensional power, or the combustion, was affected 
by the rarity of the air. During the night, how- 
ever, we were enveloped in a dense mist, which 
defeated our purpose. One rocket was sent up 
which (though we did not know it) penetrated the 
mist, and was seen at Chamouni. Lecomte's experi- 
ments on the alleged influence of light and rare- 
faction in retarding combustion caused me to resolve 
on making a series of experiments on Mont Blanc. 
Dr. Frankland was kind enough to undertake their 
execution. Six candles were chosen at Chamouni, 
and carefully weighed. All of them were permitted 
to burn for one hour at the top, and were again 
weighed when we returned to Chamouni. They 
were afterwards permitted to burn an hour below. 
Rejecting one candle, which gave a somewhat 
anomalous result, we found that the quantity con- 
sumed above was, within the limits of error, the 
same as that consumed at the bottom. This result 
surprised us all the more, inasmuch as the light of 
the candles appeared to be much feebler at the top 
than at the bottom of the mountain. 

The explosion of a pistol was sensibl} 7 weaker at 


the top than at a low level. The shortness of the 
Bound was remarkable ; but it bore no resemblance 
to the sound of a cracker, to which in acoustic 
treatises it is usually compared. It resembled more 
the sound produced by the expulsion of a cork from 
a champagne-bottle, but it was much louder. The 
sunrise from the summit was singularly magnificent. 
The snow on the shaded flanks of the mountain was 
of a pure blue, being illuminated solely by the 
reflected light of the sky ; the summit of the moun- 
tain, on the contrary, was crimson, being illuminated 
by transmitted light. The contrast of both was finer 
than I can describe. 

About twenty hours were spent upon the top of 
Mont Blanc on this occasion. Had I been better 
satisfied with the conduct of the guides, it would 
have given me pleasure at the time to dwell upon this 
out-of-the-way episode in mountain life. But a tern 
per, new to me, and which I thought looked very like 
mutiny, showed itself on the part of some of my men. 
Its manifestation was slight, I must say, in most 
cases, and conspicuous only in one. Eegrets and 
apologies followed, and due allowance ought to be 
made for the perfectly novel position in which the 
men found themselves. The awe of entire strange- 
ness is very powerful in some minds ; and to my 
companions the notion of spending a night at the 
top of Mont Blanc was passing strange. The thing 


had never been attempted previously, nor has the 
experiment been repeated since. 

As stated at p. 17, I made an attempt during 
the execrable weather of 1860 to reach the top, but 
was driven down after a delay of twenty hours at the 
Grands Mulets. The same weather destroyed the 
lower stations. In 1861, though the cross still 
remained at the top, the thermometers exhibited 
broken columns and were worthless for observation. 

I may add, in conclusion, that the lowest tempera- 
ture at the summit of the Jardin during the winter 
of 1858 was 21° Cent, below zero. In 1859 I vainly 
endeavoured to find a thermometer which had been 
placed in the snow upon the summit of Mcnt Blanfl 
a year previously. 

1861 1 A LETTER FROM BALE. 59 


From 'a lit lie book called 'Mountaineering in 1861,' 
published nine years ago, but long since out of 
print, I will now make a few selections. The moun- 
tain work of that year embraced the ascent of the 
Weisshorn, and the passage of the barrier between 
the Cima di Jazzi and Monte Eosa by an untried 
and dangerous route. Both these expeditions are 
described. But, besides these narratives of outward 
action, I notice in the book a subjective element, 
consisting of the musings and reflections to which 
I often abandon myself when sauntering over easy 
ground, and without which even Switzerland would 
sometimes be monotonous to me. It is only from 
the reader accustomed to similar reflective moods 
that I expect acceptance, or even tolerance, of these 
musings : the man of action will pass them im- 
patiently by. I begin with 


' I reached Bale last night, and now sit on the 
balcony of the " Three Kings " with the Khine flash- 
ing below me. It is silent here, but higher up, in 


passing the props of a bridge, it breaks into foam ; its 
compressed air-bubbles burst like elastic springs, and 
shake the air into sonorous vibrations. 1 Thus the 
rude mechanical motion of the river is converted 
into music. The hammer of the boat-builder rings 
on his plank, the leaves of the poplars rustle in the 
breeze, the watchdog's honest bark is heard in the 
distance ; while from the windows of the houses 
along the banks gleam a series of reflected suns, each 
surrounded by a coloured glory. 

6 Yesterday I travelled from Paris, and the day pre- 
vious from London, when the trail of a spent storm 
swept across the sea and kept its anger awake. The 
stem of our boat went up and down, the distant 
craft were equally pendulous, and the usual results 
followed. Men's faces waxed green, roses faded 
from ladies' cheeks ; while puzzled children yelled 
intermittently in the grasp of the demon which had 
newly taken possession of them. One rare pale 
maiden sat right in the line of the spray, and bore 
the violence of the ocean with the resignation of an 
angel. A white arm could be seen shining through 
translucent muslin, but even against it the brine 
beat as if it were a mere seaweed. I sat at rest, 
hovering fearfully on the verge of that doleful 
region, whose bourne most of those on board had 
already passed, thinking how directly materialistic 

1 See note at the end of this chapter. 


is the tendency of sea-sickness, through its remorse- 
less demonstration of the helplessness of the human 
soul and will. 

1 The morning of the 1st of August found me on 
my way from Paris to Bale. The sun was strong, 
and, in addition to this source of temperature, eight 
human beings, each burning the slow fire which we 
call life, were cooped within the limits of our compart- 
ment. We slept, first singly, then by groups, and 
finally as a whole. Vainly we endeavoured to ward 
off the coming lethargy. Thought gradually slips 
away from its object, or the object glides out of the 
nerveless grasp of thought, and we are conquered by 
the heat. But what is heat, that it should work such 
changes in moral and intellectual nature? Why 
are we unable to read " Mill's Logic " or study the 
" Kritik der ruinen Vernunft " with any profit in a 
Turkish bath ? Heat, defined without reference to 
our sensations, is a kind of motion, as strictly 
mechanical as the waves of the sea, or as the aerial 
vibrations which produce sound. The communica- 
tion of this motion to the molecules of the brain 
produces the moral and intellectual effects just re- 
ferred to. Human action is only possible within a 
narrow zone of temperature. Transgress the limit 
on one side, and we are torpid by excess ; transgress 
it on the other, and we are torpid by defect. The 
intellect is in some sense a function of temperature. 


Thus at noon we were drained of intellectual 
energy ; eight hours later the mind was awake and 
active, and through her operations was shed that 
feeling of earnestness and awe which the mystery of 
the starry heavens ever inspires. Physically con- 
sidered, however, the intellect of no^n. differed from 
that of 8 p.m. simply in the amount of motion pos- 
sessed by the molecules of the brain. 

' It is not levity which prompts me to write thus. 
Matter, in relation to vital phenomena, has yet to be 
studied, and the command of Canute to the waves 
would be wisdom itself compared with any attempt 
to stop such enquiries. Let the tide rise, and let 
knowledge advance ; the limits of the one are not 
more rigidly fixed than those of the other ; and no 
worse infidelity could seize upon the mind than the 
belief that a man's earnest search after truth should 
culminate in his perdition.' 

The sun was high in heaven as we rolled away 
from Bale on the morning of the 2nd. Sooner or 
later every intellectual canker disappears before 
earnest work, the influence of which, moreover, 
fills a wide margin beyond the time of its actual 
performance. Thus, to-day, I sang as I rolled 
along — not with boisterous glee, but with serene 
and deep-lying gladness of heart. This happiness, 
however, had its roots in the past, and had I not 
been a worker previous to my release from London, 


I could not now have been so glad an idler. In 
any other country than Switzerland the valley 
through which we sped would have called forth ad- 
miration and delight. Noble fells, proudly grouped, 
flanked us right and left. Cloud-like woods of pines 
overspread them in broad patches, with between 
them spaces of the tenderest green, while among the 
meadows at their feet gleamed the rushing Ehine. 

The zenith was blue, but the thick stratum of 
horizontal air invested the snowy peaks with a veil 
of translucent haze, through which their vast and 
spectral outlines were clearly seen. As we rolled 
on towards Thun the haze thickened, while dense 
and rounded clouds burst upwards, as if let loose 
from a prison behind the mountains. Soon after- 
wards the black haze and blacker clouds resolved 
themselves into a thunderstorm. The air was cut 
repeatedly by zigzag bars of solid light. Then 
came the cannonade, and then the heavy rain-pellets 
rattling with fury against the carriages. It after- 
wards cleared, but not wholly. Stormy cumuli 
swept round the mountains, between which, how- 
ever, the illuminated ridges seemed to swim in the 
opalescent air. 

At Thun I found my faithful and favourite guide, 
Johann Bennen, of Laax, in the valley of the Ehone, 
the strongest limb and stoutest heart of my acquaint- 
ance in the Alps. We took the steamer to Inter laken, 

64 nouns of exercise in the alps. [lSfo 

and while we were on the lake the heavens again 
darkened, and the deck was flooded by the gush- 
ing rain. The dusky cloud-curtain was rent at 
intervals, and through the apertures thus formed 
parallel bars of extraordinary radiance escaped across 
the lake. On reaching Interlaken I drove to the 
steamer on the lake of Brientz. We started at 6 
p.m., with a purified atmosphere, and passed through 
scenes of serene beauty in the tranquil evening light. 
The bridge of Brientz had been carried away by 
the floods, the mail was intercepted, and I joined a 
young Oxford man in a vehicle to Meyringen. The 
west wind again filled the atmosphere with gloom, 
and after supper I spent an hour watching the 
lightning thrilling behind the clouds. The darkness 
was intense, and the intermittent glare corespond- 
ingly impressive. Sometimes the lightning seemed 
to burst, like a fireball, midway between the horizon 
and the zenith, spreading a vast glory behind the 
clouds and revealing all their outlines. In front of 
me was a craggy summit, which indulged in inter- 
mittent shots of thunder; sharp, dry, and sudden^ 
with scarcely an echo to soften them off. 



A liquid vein descending through a round hole in the 
bottom of a tin vessel exhibits two distinct portions, the 
one steady and limpid, the other unsteady and apparently 
turbid. The flash of an electric spark in a dark room 
instantly resolves the turbid portion into isolated drops. 
Experiments made in 1849 with such a jet directed my 
attention to the origin of the sound of agitated water. 
When the smoke is projected from the lips of a tobacco- 
smoker, a little explosion usually occurs, which is chiefly 
due to the sudden bursting of the film of saliva connecting 
both lips. An inflated bladder bursts with an explosion 
as loud as a pistol-shot. Sound to some extent always 
accompanies the sudden liberation of compressed air, and 
this fact is also exhibited in the deportment, of a water- 
jet. If the surface of water into which the jet falls intersect 
its limpid portion, the jet enters silently, and no bubbles 
are produced. If the surface cut the turbid portion of the 
jet, bubbles make their appearance with an accompaniment 
of sound. The very nature of the sound pronounces its 
origin to be the bursting of the bubbles ; and to the same 
cause the murmur of streams and the sound of breakers 
appear to be almost exclusively due. The impact of water 
against water is a comparatively subordinate cause of the 
sound, and could never of itself occasion the * babble ' of a 
brook or the musical roar of the ocean. — Philosophical 
Magazine, February 1857. 




Our bivouac at Meyringen was le Sauvage, who 
discharged his duty as a host with credit to himself 
and with satisfaction to us. Forster (the statesman) 
arrived, and in the afternoon of the 3rd we walked 
up the valley, with the view of spending the night at 
Hof. Between Meyringen and Hof, the vale of Hasli 
is crossed by a transverse ridge called the Kirchet, 
and the barrier is at one place split through, form- 
ing a deep chasm with vertical sides through which 
plunges the river Aar. The chasm is called the 
Finsteraarschlucht, and by the ready hypothesis 
of an earthquake its formation has been explained. 
Man longs for causes, and the weaker minds, unable 
to restrain their longing, often barter, for the most 
sorry theoretic pottage, the truth which patient 
enquiry would make their own. This proneness of 
the human mind to jump to conclusions, and thus 
shirk the labour of real investigation, is a most 
mischievous tendency. We complain of the con- 
tempt with which practical men regard theory, and. 


to confound them, triumphantly exhibit the specu- 
lative achievements of master minds. But the 
practical man, though puzzled, remains uncon- 
vinced ; and why ? Simply because nine out of ten 
of the theories with which he is acquainted are de- 
serving of nothing better than contempt. Our master 
minds built their theoretic edifices upon the rock of 
fact, the quantity of fact necessary to enable them 
to divine the law being a measure of individual 
genius, and not a test of philosophic system. 1 

The level plain of Hof lies above the mound of 
the Kirch et ; how was this flat formed ? Is it not 
composed of the sediment of a lake ? Did not the 
Kirchet form the dam of this lake, a stream issuing 
from the latter and falling over the dam ? And as 
the sea-waves find a weak point in the cliffs against 
which they dash, and gradually eat their way so as 
to form caverns with high vertical sides, as at the 
Land's End, a joint or fault or some other accidental 
weakness determining their line of action ; so also a 
mountain torrent rushing for ages over the same dam 
would be sure to cut itself a channel. The lake 
after its drainage left the basis of green meadows 
as sediment behind ; and through these meadows 
now flows the stream of the Aar. Imagination is 

1 This was written soon after Mr. Buckle's Royal Institution 
lecture, which I thought a piece of astonishing rhetoric, but of yery 
unsound science. 


essential to the natural philosopher, but its matter 
must be facts ; and its function the discernment of 
their connection. 

We were called at 4 a.m., an hour later than we 
intended, and the sight of the cloudless mountains 
was an inspiration to us all. At 5.30 a.m. we were 
off, crossing the valley of Hof, which was hugged 
round its margin by a light and silky mist. We 
ascended a spur which separated us from the Ur- 
bachthal, through which our route lay. The Aar 
for a time babbled in the distance, until, on turning 
a corner, its voice was suddenly quenched by the 
louder music of the Urbach, rendered mellow and 
voluminous by the resonance of the chasm into 
which the torrent leaped. The sun was already 
strong. His yellow light glimmered from the fresh 
green leaves ; it smote with glory the boles and the 
plumes of the pines ; soft shadows fell from shrub 
and rock upon the pastures ; snow-peaks were in 
sight, cliffy summits also, without snow or verdure, 
but in many cases buttressed by slopes of soil which 
bore a shaggy growth of trees. To the right of us 
rose the bare cliffs of the Engelhorner, broken at 
the top into claw-shaped masses which were turned, 
as if in spite, against the serene heaven. Bennen 
walked on in front, a mass of organised force, silent, 
but emitting at times a whistle which sounded like 
the piping of a lost chamois. In a hollow of the 


Engelhorner a mass of snow had found a lodgment ; 
melted by the warm rock, its foundation was sapped, 
and down it came in a thundering cascade. The 
thick pinewoods to our right were furrowed by the 
tracks of these destroyers, the very wind of which, 
it is affirmed, tears up distant trees by the roots. 

For a time our route lay through a spacious va Hey, 
which at length turned to the left, and narrowed 
to a gorge. Along its bottom the nixing river 
rushed ; this we crossed, climbed the wall of a cut 
de sac, and from its rim enjoyed a glorious view. 
The Urbachthal has been the scene of vast glacier 
action. Looking at these charactered cliffs, one's 
thoughts involuntarily revert to the ancient days, 
and we restore in idea a state of things which had 
disappeared from the world before the development 
of man. Whence this wondrous power of recon- 
struction ? Was it locked like latent heat in ancient 
inorganic nature, and developed as the ages rolled ? 
Are other and grander powers still latent in nature, 
destined to blossom in another age ? Let us ques- 
tion fearlessly, but, having done so, let us avow 
frankly that at bottom we know nothing ; that we 
are imbedded in a mystery, towards the solution of 
which no whisper has been yet conceded to the 
listening intellect of man. 

The world of life and beauty is now retreating, 
and the world of death and beauty is at hand. We 


were soon at the end of the Gauli glacier, from 
which the impetuous Urbach rushes, and turned 
into a chalet for a draught of milk. The Senner 
within proved an extortioner — ' ein unverschdmter 
Ilund ; ' but let him pass. We worked along the 
flank of the glacier to, a point which commands a 
view of the cliffy barrier which it is the main 
object of our journey to pass. From a range of 
snow-peaks linked together by ridges of black rock, 
the Grauli glacier falls, at first steeply as snow, then 
more gently as ice. We scan the mountain barrier 
to ascertain where it ought to be attacked. No one 
of us has ever been here before, and the scanty 
scraps of information which we have received tell us 
that at one place only is the barrier passable. We 
may reach the summit at several points from this 
side, but all save one, we are informed, lead to the 
brink of intractable precipices, which fall sheer to 
the Lauteraar glacier. We observe, discuss, and 
finally decide. We enter upon the glacier ; black 
chasms yawn here and there through the super- 
incumbent snow, but there is no real difficulty. 
We cross the glacier and reach the opposite slopes ; 
our way first lies up a moraine, and afterwards 
through the snow ; a laborious ascent brings us 
close to the ridge, and here we pause once more 
in consultation. There is a gentle indentation to 
our left, and a cleft in the rocks to our right ; out 


information points to the cleft, but we decide in 
favour of the saddle. 

The winter snows were here thickly laid against 
the precipitous crags ; the lower part of the buttress 
thus formed had broken away from the upper, which 
still clung to the rocks, the whole ridge being 
thus defended by a profound chasm, called in 
Switzerland a Bergschrund. At some places por- 
tions of snow had fallen away from the upper slope 
and partially choked the schrund, closing, however, 
its mouth only, and on this snow we were now to 
seek a footing. Bennen and myself were loose com- 
ing up ; Forster and his guide were tied together ; 
but now my friend declares that we must all be at- 
tached. We accordingly rope ourselves, and advance 
along the edge of the fissure to a place where it is 
partially stopped. A vertical wall of snow faces us. 
Our leader carefully treads down the covering of 
the chasm ; and having thus rendered it sufficiently 
rigid to stand upon, he cuts a deep gap with his 
ice-axe in the opposing wall. Into the gap he tries 
to force himself, but the mass yields, and he falls 
back, sinking deeply in the snow of the schrund. 
He stands right over the fissure, which is merely 
bridged by the snow. I call out, ' Take care ! ' he 
responds, ' All right ! ' and returns to the charge. 
He hews a deeper and more ample gap ; strikes his 
axe into the slope above him, and leaves it there ; 


buries his hands in the yielding mass, and raises his 
body on his two arms, as on a pair of pillars. He 
thus clears the schrund and anchors his limbs in 
the snow above. I am speedily at his side, and we 
both tighten the rope as our friend Forster advances. 
With perfect courage and a faultless head, he has 
but one disadvantage, and that is an excess of 
weight of at least two stone. In his first attempt 
the snow-ledge breaks, and he falls back ; but two 
men are now at the rope, the tension of which, 
aided by his own activity, prevents him from sink- 
ing far. By a second effort he clears the difficulty, 
is followed by his guide, and all four of us reach 
the slope above the chasm. Its steepness was 
greater than that of a cathedral roof, while below 
us, and within a few yards of us, was a chasm into 
which it would be certain death to fall. Education 
enables us to regard a position of this kind almost 
with indifference ; still the work was by no means 
unexciting. In this early stage of our summer 
performances, it required perfect trust in our leader 
to keep our minds at ease. We reached the saddle, 
and a cheer at the summit announced that our 
escape was secured. 

The indentation formed the top of a kind of 
chimney or funnel in the rocks, which led right down 
to the Lauteraar glacier. Elated with our success, 
I released myself from the rope and sprang down 


the cliimney, preventing the descent from quicken- 
ing to an absolute fall by seizing at intervals the 
projecting rocks. Once an effort of this kind shook 
the alpenstock from my hand : it slid along the 
rubbish, reached a snow-slope, shot down it, and was 
caught on some shingle at the bottom of the slope. 
Quickly skirting the snow, which, without a staff, 
cannot be trusted, I reached a ridge, from which a 
jump landed me on the debris : it yielded and carried 
me down ; passing the alpenstock I seized it, and in 
an instant was master of all my motions. Another 
snow-slope was reached, down which I shot to the 
rocks at the bottom, and there awaited the arrival of 
my guide. 

We diverged from the deep cut of the chimney, 
Bennen adhering to the rough rocks, while I, hoping 
to make an easier descent through the funnel itself, 
resorted to it. It was partially filled with indurated 
snow, but underneath was a stream, and my igno- 
rance of the thickness of the roof rendered caution 
necessary. At one place the snow was broken quite 
across, and a dark tunnel, through which the stream 
rushed, opened immediately below me. My descent 
being thus cut off, I crossed the couloir to the opposite 
rocks, climbed them, and found myself upon the sum- 
mit of a ledged precipice, below which Bennen stood, 
watching me as I descended. On one of the ledges 
my foot slipped ; a most melancholy whine issued 


from my guide, as he suddenly moved towards me ; 
but the slip in no way compromised me ; I reached 
the next ledge, and in a moment was clear of the 
difficulty. We dropped down the mountain to- 
gether, quitted the rocks, and reached the glacier, 
where we were soon joined by Forster and his com- 
panion. Turning round, we espied a herd of seven 
chamois on one of the distant slopes of snow. 
The telescope reduced them to five full-grown 
animals and two pretty little kids. The day was 
fading and the deeper glacier pools were shaded by 
their icy banks. Through the shadowed water 
needles of ice were darting : all day long the mole- 
cules had been kept asunder by the antagonistic 
heat ; their enemy is now withdrawn, and they 
lock themselves together in a crystalline embrace. 
Through a reach of merciless shingle, which covers 
the lower part of the glacier, we worked our way ; 
then over green pastures and rounded rocks, to the 
Grrimsel Hotel, which, uncomfortable as it is, was 
reached with pleasure by us all. 




This Grimsel is a weird region — a monument carved 
with hieroglyphics more ancient and more grand 
than those of Nineveh or the Nile. It is a world 
disinterred by the sun from a sepulchre of ice. All 
around are evidences of the existence and the might 
of the glaciers which once held possession of the place. 
Ail around the rocks are carved, and fluted, and 
polished, and scored. Here and there angular pieces 
of quartz, held fast by the ice, inserted their edges 
into the rocks and scratched them like diamonds, 
the scratches varying in depth and width according 
to the magnitude of the cutting stone. Larger 
masses, held similarly captive, scooped longitudinal 
depressions in the rocks over which they passed, 
while in many cases the polishing must have been 
effected by the ice itself. A raindrop will wear a 
stone away ; much more would an ice surface, 
squeezed into perfect contact by enormous pressure, 
rub away the asperities of the rocks over which foi 


ages it was forced to slide. The rocks thus polished 
by the ice itself are so exceedingly smooth and 
slippery that it is impossible to stand on them where 
their inclination is at all considerable. But what a 
world it must have been when the valleys were thus 
tilled ! We can restore the state of things in 
thought, and in doing so we submerge many a mass 
which now lifts its pinnacle skyward. Switzerland 
in those days could not be so grand as it is now. 
Pour ice into those valleys till they are filled, and 
you eliminate those contrasts of height and depth 
on which the grandeur of Alpine scenery depends. 
Instead of skiey pinnacles and deep-cut gorges we 
should have an icy sea dotted with dreary islands 
formed by the highest mountain-tops. 

In the afternoon I strolled up to the Siedelhorn. 
As I stood upon the broken summit of the mountain 
the air was without a cloud ; and the sunbeams fell 
directly against the crown and slopes of the 
Gralenstock at the base of which lay the glacier of 
the Rhone. The level sea of neve above the great 
ice-cascade, the i'all itself, and the terminal glacier 
below the fall were all apparently at hand. At the 
base of the fall the ice undergoes an extraordinary 
transformation ; it reaches this place more or less 
amorphous, it quits it most beautifully laminated, 
the change being due to the pressure endured at 
the bottom of the fall. The wrinkling of the 


glacier here was quite visible, the dwindling of the 
wrinkles into bands, and the subdivision of these 
bands into lines which mark the edges of the 
laminae of which the glacier at this place is made 
up. Beyond, amid the mountains at the opposite 
side of the Rhone valley, lay the Gries glacier, half 
its snow in shadow, and half illuminated by the 
sinking sun. Round farther to the right were the 
Monte Leone and other grand masses, the grandest 
here being the Mischabel with its crowd of snowy 
cones. Jumping a gap in the mountains, we hit 
the stupendous cone of the Weisshorn, which slopes 
to meet the inclines of the Mischabel, and in the 
wedge of space carved out between the two the 
Matterhorn lifts its terrible head. 

Wheeling farther in the same direction, we at 
length strike the mighty spurs of the Finsteraarhorn, 
between two of which lies the Oberaar glacier. Here 
is no turmoil of crevasses, no fantastic ice-pinnacles, 
nothing to indicate the operation of those tremen- 
dous forces by which a glacier sometimes rends its 
own breast. The grimmest giant of the Ober- 
land closes the view at the head of the Lauteraar 
glacier — the Schreckhorn, whose cliffs on this side 
no mountaineer will ever scale. Between the 
Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn a curious group of 
peaks encircle a flat snow-field, from which the 
sunbeams are flung in blazing lines. Immediately 


below is the Unteraar glacier, with a long black 
streak upon its back, bent hither and thither, like a 
serpent wriggling down the valley. Beyond it and 
flanking it is a ridge of mountains with a crest of 
vertical rock, hacked into indentations which sug- 
gest a resemblance to a cock's comb. To the very 
root of the comb the mountains have been planed 
by the ancient ice. 

A scene of unspeakable desolation it must have 
been when not Switzerland alone, but all Europe, 
was thus encased in frozen armour — when a glacier 
from Ben Nevis dammed the mouth of Grlenroy, and 
Llanberis and Borrodale were ploughed by frozen 
shared sent down by Snowdon and Scawfell — when 
from the Reeks of Magillicuddy came the navigators 
which dug out space for the Killarney lakes, and 
carved through the mountains the Gap of Dunloe. 1 
Evening came, and I moved downwards, over heaped 
boulders and tufted alp ; down with headlong speed 
over the rounded rocks of the Grimsel, making long 
springs at intervals, over the polished inclines, and 
reaching the hospice as the bell rings its inmates to 
their evening meal. 

On Saturday I ascended from Viesch to the 
Hotel Jungfrau on the slope of the ^Eggischnorn, 
and in the evening walked up to the summit of the 
mountain alone As usual, I wandered unconsciously 

1 See chapter on 'Killarney,' p. 413. 


from the beaten track, getting into a chaos of crags 
which had been shaken from the heights. My 
ascent was quick, and I soon found myself upon 
the crest of broken rocks which caps the mountain. 
The peak and those adjacent, which are similarly 
shattered, exhibit a striking picture of the ruin which 
nature inflicts upon her own creations. She build- 
eth up and taketh down. She lifts the mountains 
by her subterranean energies, and then blasts them 
by her lightnings and her frost. Thus grandly 
she rushes along the ' grooves of change ' to her 
unattainable repose. Is it unattainable ? The 
incessant tendency of material forces is toward final 
equilibrium ; and if the quantity of this tendency 
be finite, a time of repose must come at last. If 
one portion of the universe be hotter than another, 
a flux instantly sets in to equalise the temperatures; 
while winds blow and livers roll in search of a stable 
equilibrium. Matter longs for rest ; when is this 
longing to be fully satisfied ? If satisfied, what 
then ? Rest is not perfection ; it is death. Life is 
only compatible with mutation ; when equilibrium 
sets in life ceases, and the world thenceforward is 
locked in everlasting sleep. 

A wooden cross bleached by many storms sur- 
mounts the pinnacle of the iEggischhorn, and at 
the base of it I now take my place arid scan the 
sur mnding scene. Down from its birthplace in 


tlie mountains comes that noblest of ice-streams the 
Great Aletsch glacier. Its arms are thrown round 
the shoulders of the Jungfrau, while from the Monk 
and the Trugberg, the Gletscherhorn, the Breithorn, 
the Aletschhorn, and many another noble pile, the 
tributary snows descend and thicken into ice. The 
mountains are well protected by their wintry coats, 
and hence the quantity of debris upon the glacier is 
comparatively small ; still, along it can be noticed 
dark longitudinal streaks, which are incipient 
moraines. Right and left from these longitudinal 
bands sweep finer curves, twisted here and there 
into complex windings, which mark the lamination 
of the subjacent ice. The glacier lies in a curved 
valley, the side towards which its convex curvature 
is turned is thrown into a state of strain, the ice 
breaks across the line of tension, a curious system of 
oblique glacier ravines being thus produced. From 
the snow-line which crosses the glacier above the 
Faulberg a pure snow-field stretches upward to the 
Col de la Jungfrau, which unites the Maiden to the 
Monk. Skies and summits are to-day without a 
cloud, and 'no mist or turbidity interferes with the 
sharpness of the outlines. Jungfrau, Monk, Eiger, 
Trugberg, cliffy Strahlgrat, stately, lady-like Aletsch- 
horn, all grandly pierce the empyrean. Like a Saul of 
mountains, the Finsteraarhorn overtops all his neigh- 
bours ; then we have the Oberaarhorn, with the river* 


glacier of Viesch rolling from his shoulders. Below is 
the Marjelin See, with its crystal precipices and its 
floating icebergs, snowy white, sailing on a blue- 
green sea. Beyond is the range which divides the 
Valais from Italy. Sweeping round, the vision 
meets an aggregate of peaks which look, as fledg- 
lings to their mother, towards the mighty Dom. 
Then come the repellent crags of Mont Cervin, the 
idea of moral savagery, of wild un tameable ferocity, 
mingling involuntarily with our contemplation of 
the gloomy pile. Next comes an object scarcely less 
grand, conveying it may be even a deeper impression 
of majesty and might than the Matterhorn itself — 
the Weisshorn, perhaps the most splendid object in 
the Alps. But beauty is associated with its force, 
and we think of it, not as cruel, but as grand and 
strong. Further to the right is the Great Combin ; 
other peaks crowd around him, while at the extre- 
mity of the curve along which the gaze has swept 
rises the sovran crown of Mont Blanc. And now, 
as the day sinks, scrolls of pearly clouds form around 
the mountain-crests, and are wafted from them into 
the distant air. They are without colour of arty 
kind ; but their grace of form and iustre are not to 
be described. 



It ia welt known that when a receiver filled with ordinal y 
undried air is exhausted, a cloudiness, due to the precipi- 
tation of the aqueous vapour diffused in the air, is produced 
by the first few strokes of the pump. It is, as might be 
expected, possible to produce clouds in this way with the 
vapours of other liquids than water. 

In the course of some experiments on the chemical 
action of light on vapours which have been communicated 
to the Royal Society, I had frequent occasion to observe 
the precipitation of such clouds ; indeed, several days at a 
time have been devoted solely to the generation and exami- 
nation of clouds formed by the sudden dilatation of mixec 
air and vapours in the experimental tubes. 

The clouds were generated in two ways : one mode 
consisted in opening the passage between the filled experi- 
mental tube and the air-pump, and then simply dilating 
the air by working the pump. In the other, the experi- 
mental tube was connected with a vessel of suitable size, 
the passage between which and the experimental tube could 
be closed by a stopcock. This vessel was first exhausted ; 
on turning the cock the air rushed from the experimental 
tube into the vessel, the precipitation of a cloud within the 
tube being a consequence of the transfer. Instead of a 
special vessel, the cylinders of the air-pump itself were 
usually employed for this purpose. 

It was found possible, by shutting off the residue of air 
and vapour after each act of precipitation, and again ex- 
hausting the cylinders of the pump, to obtain with seme 


substances, and Avithout refilling the experimental tube, 
fifteen or twenty clouds in succession. 

The clouds thus precipitated differed from each other in 
luminous energy, some shedding forth a mild white light, 
others flashing out with sudden and surprising brilliancy. 
This difference of action is, of course, to be referred to the 
different reflective energies of the particles of the clouds, 
which were produced by substances of very different re- 
fractive indices. 

Different clouds, moreover, possess very different degrees 
of stability : some melt away rapidly, while others linger for 
minutes in the experimental tube, resting, as they slowly 
dissolve, upon its bottom like a heap of snow. The particles 
of other clouds are trailed through the experimental tube 
as if they were moving through a viscous medium. 

Nothing can exceed the splendour of the diffraction 
phenomena exhibited by some of these clouds ; the colours 
are best seen by looking along the experimental tube from 
a point above it, the face being turned towards the source 
of illumination. The differential motions introduced by 
friction against the interior surface of the tube often cause 
the colours to arrange themselves in distinct layers 

The difference in texture exhibited by different clouds 
caused me to look a little more closely than I had previously 
done into the mechanism of cloud-formation. A certain 
expansion is necessary to bring down the cloud ; the 
moment just before precipitation the cooling air and 
vapour may be regarded as divided into a number of poly- 
hedra, the particles along the bounding surfaces of which 
move in opposite directions when precipitation actually sets 
in. Every cloud-particle has consumed a polyhedron of 
vapour in its formation ; and it is manifest that the size of 
the particle must depend, not only on the size of the vapoui 


polyhedron, but on the relation of the density of the 
vapour to that of its liquid. If the vapour were light, and 
the liquid heavy, other things being equal, the cloud- 
particle would be smaller than if the vapour were heavy 
and the liquid light. There would evidently be more 
shrinkage in the one case than in the other ; these con- 
siderations were found valid throughout the experiments ; 
the case of toluol may be taken as representative of a great 
number of others. The specific gravity of this liquid is 
0*85, that of water being unity ; the specific gravity of its 
vapour is 3'26, that of aqueous vapour being 0*6. Now, 
as the size of the cloud -particle is directly proportional to 
the specific gravity of the vapour, and inversely propor- 
tional to the specific gravity of the liquid, an easy calcula- 
tion proves that, assuming the size of the vapour polyhedra 
in both cases to be the same, the size of the particle of 
toluol cloud must be more than six times that of the 
particle of aqueous cloud. It is probably impossible 
to test this question with numerical accuracy ; but the 
comparative coarseness of the toluol cloud is strikingly 
manifest to the naked eye. The case is, as I have 
said, representative. 

In fact, aqueous vapour is without a parallel in these 
particulars ; it is not only the lightest of all vapours, in 
the common acceptation of that term, but the lightest of 
all gases except hydrogen and ammonia. To this circum- 
stance the soft and tender beauty of the clouds of our 
atmosphere is mainly to be ascribed. 

The sphericity of the cloud-particles may be immediately 
inferred from their deportment under the luminous beams. 
The light which they shed when spherical is eontinuous : 
but clouds may also be precipitated in solid flakes; and 
then the incessant sparkling of the cloud shows that its 


particles are plates, and not spheres. Some portions of the 
same cloud may be composed of spherical particles, others 
of flakes, the difference being at once manifested through 
the calmness of the one portion of the cloud, and the 
uneasiness of the other. The sparkling of such flakes 
reminded me of the plates of mica in the River Rhone at its 
entrance into the Lake of Geneva when shone upon by a 
strong sun. — Proceedings of lite Royal Society, vol. xvii. 
p. 317. 

Clouds are so often referred to in these pages that 
I thought it might be of interest to note the latest 
remarks on their formation. 



On Tuesday the 13th I accompanied a party of 
friends to the Marjelin See, skirted the lake, struck 
in upon the glacier, and having heard much of the 
position and the comfort of a new hotel upon the 
Bel Alp, I resolved to descend the glacier and pay 
the place a visit. The Valais range had been 
covered before we quitted the iEggischhorn ; and, 
though the sun rode unimpeded in the higher heavens, 
vast masses of cloud continued to thrust themselves 
forth like tree-branches into the upper air. 

The clouds extended, becoming ever blacker, until 
finally they were unlocked by thunder, and shook 
themselves down upon us in furious rain. The 
glacier is here cut up into oblique valleys of ice, 
subdivided by sharp-edged crevasses. We advanced 
swiftly along the ridges, but these finally abutted 
against the mountain, and we were compelled to cross 
from ridge to ridge. Hirst followed Bennen, and I 
'rusted to my own devices. Joyously we struck our 
axes into the crumbling crests, and made our way 

1861] THE BEL ALP. 87 

rapidly between the chasms. The sunshine gushed 
down upon us, and partially dried our drenched 
clothes. At some distance to our left we observed 
upon the ice a group of persons, consisting of two 
men, a boy, and an old woman, engaged beside a 
crevasse ; a thrill of- horror shot through me, at 
the thought of a man being possibly between its 
jaws. We quickly joined them, and found an unfor- 
tunate cow firmly jammed between the frozen sides 
of the fissure, and groaning piteously. The men 
seemed very helpless ; their means were inadequate, 
and their efforts ill-directed. ' Grive the brute space, 
cut away the ice which presses the ribs, and you step 
upon that block which stops the chasm, and apply 
your shoulders to the creature's buttocks.' The ice 
splinters fly aloft, under the vigorous strokes of 
Bennen. Hirst suggests that a rope should be passed 
round the horns, so as to enable all hands to join in 
the pull. This is done. Another rope is passed be- 
tween the hind legs. Bennen has loosened the ice 
which held the ribs in bondage, and now, like mari- 
ners heaving an anchor, we all join in a tug, timing 
our efforts by an appropriate exclamation. The 
weight moves, but extremely little ; again the cry, 
and again the heave — it moves a little more. This 
is repeated several times till the fore-legs are extri- 
cated and thrown forward on the ice. We now lift 
the hinder parts, and succeed in placing the animal 


upon the glacier, panting and trembling all over. 
Folding our rope, we went onward. The day again 
darkened. Again the thunder rang, being now pre- 
ceded by lightning, which was thrown into my eyes 
from the polished surface of my axe. Flash followed 
flash and peal succeeded peal with terrific grandeur, 
and the loaded clouds sent down from all their 
fringes dusky streamers of rain. They looked like 
waterspouts, so dense was their texture. Furious as 
was the descending shower, hard as we were hit by the 
mixed pellets of ice and water, I enjoyed the scene. 
Grandly the cloud-besom swept the mountains, their 
colossal outlines looming at intervals like over- 
powered Titans struggling against their doom. 

The glacier becoming impracticable through cre- 
vasses, we retreated to its eastern shore, and got along 
the lateral moraine. It was rough work. The slope to 
our left was partially clothed with spectral pines. 
Storms had stripped the trunks of their branches, 
and the branches of their leaves, leaving the tree- 
wrecks behind, as if spirit-stricken and accursed. 
Our home is now in sight, perched upon the summit 
of a bluff opposite. We passed swiftly over the 
ridges towards our destination. Wet and thirsty, we 
reached the opposite side, and, striking into a beaten 
track, finally reached the pleasant auberge at which 
our journey ends. 

From the hotel on the slope of ^Eggischhorn an 

I861J THE BEL ALP. 89 

hour's ascent is required to place you in presence of 
the magnificent view from the summit. But the 
very windows of the hotel upon the Bel Alp command 
noble views, and you may sit upon the bilberry 
slopes adjacent before the grandest of mountain 
scenes. On the 14th I went down to the savage 
gorge in which the Aletsch glacier ends. A pine 
tree stood sheer over it ; bending its trunk at a right 
angle near its root, and grasping a rock with its root, 
it supported itself above the chasm. Standing upon 
the horizontal part of the tree, I hugged its upright 
stem, and looked down into the gorge. It required 
several minutes to chase away my timidity, and 
as the wind blew more forcibly against me, I clung 
with greater fixity to the tree. In this wild spot, 
and alone, I watched the dying fires of the day, until 
the latest glow had vanished from the mountains. 

Above the Bel Alp, and two hours distant, is 
the grey pinnacle of the Sparrenhorn. I went up 
there on the 15th. To the observer from the 
hotel it appears as an isolated peak ; but it forms 
the lofty end of a narrow ridge, which is torn 
into ruins by the weather. At a distance in front of 
me was a rocky promontory like the Abschwung, 
right and left of which descended two streams of ice, 
which welded themselves to a common trunk glacier. 
The scene was perfectly unexpected and strikingly 
beautifid. Nowhere have I seen more perfect repose, 


nowhere more tender curves or finer structural lines. 
The stripes of the moraine bending along the glacier 
contribute to its beauty, and its deep seclusion gives 
it a peculiar charm. It seems a river so protected 
by its bounding mountains that no storm can ever 
reach it, and no billow disturb the perfect serenity 
of its rest. The sweep of the Aletsch glacier is also 
mighty as viewed from this point, and from no 
other could the Valais range seem more majestic. 
It is needless to say a word about the grandeur of 
the Dom, the Cervin, and the Weisshorn, all of which, 
and a great deal more, are commanded from the 





On Friday the 16th of August I rose at 4.30 ; the 
eastern heaven was hot with tne glow of the rising 
sun, and against it were drawn the mountain outlines. 
At 5.30 I bade good-bye to the excellent little au- 
berge of the Bel Alp, 1 and went straight down the 
mountain to Briegg, took the diligence to Visp, and 
engaged a porter immediately to Kanda. I had sent 
Bennen thither to inspect the Weisshorn. On my 
arrival I learned that he had made the necessary 
reconnaissance, and entertained hopes of our being- 
able to gain the top. 

This noble mountain, which is fourteen thousand 
eight hundred feet high, had been tried on various 
occasions and from different sides by brave and 
competent climbers, but all efforts had been hitherto 

Previous to quitting Randa to assail this formid- 
able peak I had two pairs of rugs sewed together so 
as to form two sacks. These and other coverlets, 

v Now a substantial hotel which merits encouragement. 


together with our wine and provisions, were sent on 
in advance of us. At 1 p.m. on the 18th of August 
Bennen, Wenger, and myself quitted the hotel, and 
were soon zigzagging among the pines of the opposite 
mountain. Wenger had been the guide of my friend 
Forster, and had shown himself so active and handy 
on the Strahleck that I commissioned Bennen to 
engage him. During the previous night I had been 
very unwell, and as I climbed the slope I suffered 
from intense thirst. Water seemed powerless to 
quench the desire for drink. We reached a chalet, 
and at our request a smart young Senner caught up 
a pail, and soon returned with it full of delicious 
milk. The effect of the milk was astonishing. It 
seemed to lubricate every atom of my body, and to 
exhilarate with its fragrance my bram. 

Two hours' additional climbing brought us to our 
bivouac, a ledge of rock which jutted from the moun- 
tain-side, and formed an overhanging roof. On 
removing the stones from beneath the ledge, a space 
of comparatively dry clay was laid bare. This was 
to be my bed, and to soften it Wenger considerately 
stirred it up with his axe. The position was ex- 
cellent, for lying upon my left side I commanded the 
whole range of Monte Rosa, from the Mischabel to 
the Breithorn. We were on the edge of an amphi- 
theatre. Beyond the Schallenbach was the stately 
Mettelhorn. A row of eminences swept round to thp 

1&61] THE WEISSHORN. 93 

right linked by«Jofty ridges of cliffs, which embraced 
the Schallenberg glacier. They formed, however, 
only a spur of the vaster Weisshorn, the cone of which 
was not visible from our dormitory. In company 
with Bennen I afterwards skirted the mountain until 
the whole colossal pyramid stood facing us. When 
I first looked at it my hopes sank, but. both of us 
gathered confidence from a more lengthened gaze. 
The mountain is a pyramid with three faces, the in- 
tersections of which form three sharp edges or aretes. 
The end of the eastern ridge was nearest to us, and 
on it our attention was principally fixed. We finally 
decided on the route to be pursued next morning, 
and with a chastened hope in both our breasts we 
returned to our shelter. 

Water was our first necessity : it seemed every- 
where, but there was none to drink. It was locked 
to solidity in the ice and snow. The sound of it 
came booming up from the Vispbach, as it broke into 
foam or rolled its boulders over its waterworn bed ; 
and the swish of many a minor streamlet mingled 
with the muffled roar of the large one. Bennen set 
out in search of the precious liquid, and after a long 
absence returned with a jug and pan full. At our 
meal, Wenger, who is a man rich in small expedients, 
turned the section of a cheese towards the flame of our 
pine fire ; it fizzed and blistered and turned viscous, 
and, the toasted surface being removed, was consumed 


with relish by us all. The sunset had been un- 
speakably grand, steeping the zenith in violet, and 
flooding the base of the heavens with crimson light. 
Immediately opposite to us rose the Mischabel, with 
its two great peaks, the Grrubenhorn and the Tasch- 
horn, each barely under 15,000 feet in height. 
Next came the Alphubel, with its flattened crown of 
snow ; then the Allaleinhorn and Rympfischhorn ; 
then the Cima di Jazzi ; next the mass of Monte 
Rosa, flooded with light from bottom to top. The 
face of the Lyskamm turned towards us was for the 
most part shaded, but here and there its projecting 
portions jutted forth red hot as the light fell upon 
them The ' Twins ' were most singularly illumin- 
ated ; across the waist of each of them was drawn a 
black bar, produced by the shadow of a corner of the 
Breithorn, while their bases and crowns were exposed 
to the crimson light. Over the rugged face of the 
Breithorn itself the light fell as if in splashes, ig- 
niting its glaciers and swathing its black crags in a 
layer of transparent red. The Mettelhorn was cold, 
so was the entire range governed by the Weisshorn, 
while the glaciers they embraced lay grey and 
ghastly in the twilight shade. 

The sunlight lingered, while up the arch of the 
opposite heavens the moon, within one day of being 
full, seemed hastening to our aid. She finally ap- 
peared exactly behind the peak of the Rympfischhorn, 

1861] THE WEISSHORN. 95 

the cone of the mountain being projected for a short 
time as a triangle on the lunar disc. Only for a 
short time, however ; the silver sphere soon cleared 
the mountain, and bore away through the tinted sky. 
The motion was quite visible, and resembled that of 
a vast balloon. As the day approached its end the 
scene assumed the most sublime aspect. All the 
lower portions of the mountains were deeply shaded, 
while the loftiest peaks, ranged upon a semicircle, 
were fully exposed to the sinking sun. They seemed 
pyramids of solid fire, while here and there long 
stretches of crimson light drawn over the higher 
snow-fields linked the summits together. An in- 
tensely illuminated geranium flower seems to swim 
in its own colour, which apparently surrounds the 
petals like a layer, and defeats by its lustre any at- 
tempt of the eye to seize upon the sharp outline of 
the leaves. A similar effect was here observed upon 
the mountains ; the glory did not seem to come from 
them alone, but seemed also eftluent from the air 
around them. As the evening advanced, the eastern 
heavens low down assumed a deep purple hue, 
above which, and blending with it by infinitesimal 
gradations, was a belt of red, and over this again 
zones of orange and violet. I walked round the 
corner of the mountain at sunset, and found the 
western sky glowing with a more transparent crimson 
than that which overspread the east. The crown of 


I he VTeisshorn was imbedded in this magnificent 
light. After snnset the purple of the east changed 
to a deep neutral tint, and against the faded red 
which spread above it the sun-forsaken mountains 
laid their cold and ghastly heads. The ruddy colour 
vanished more and more ; the stars strengthened in 
lustre, until finally the moon and they held undis- 
puted possession of the sky. 

My face was turned towards the moon until it 
became so chilled that I was forced to protect it by 
a light handkerchief. The power of blinding the 
eyes is ascribed to the moonbeams, but the real 
mischief is that produced by radiation from the eyes 
into clear space, and the inflammation consequent 
upon the chill. As the cold increased I was fain to 
squeeze myself more and more underneath the ledge, 
so as to lessen the space of sky against which my 
body could radiate. Nothing could be more solemn 
than the night. Up from the valley came the low 
thunder of the Vispbach. Over the Dom flashed in 
succession the stars of Orion, until finally the entire 
constellation hung aloft. Higher up in heaven was 
the moon, and her beams as they fell upon the snow- 
fields and pyramids were sent back in silvery lustre 
by some, while others remained a dead white. These, 
as the earth twirled round, came duly in for their 
share of the glory. The Twins caught it at length 
and retained it long, shining with a pure spiritual 
radiance, while the moon continued above the hills. 

1861] THE WEISSHOItN. 97 

At twelve o'clock I looked at my watch, and a 
second time at 2 a.m. The moon was then just 
touching the crest of the Schallenberg, and we were 
threatened with the withdrawal of her light. This 
soon occurred. We rose at 2\ a.m., consumed our 
coffee, and had to wait idly for the dawn. A faint 
illumination at length overspread the sky, and with 
this promise of the coming day we quitted our 
bivouac at 3^ a.m. No cloud was to be seen ; as far 
as the weather was concerned we were sure to have 
fair play. We rounded the shingly shoulder of the 
mountain to the edge of a snow-field, but before 
entering upon it I disburthened myself of my strong 
shooting jacket, leaving it on the mountain-side. 
The sunbeams and my own exertion would, I knew, 
keep me ouly too warm during the day. We crossed 
the snow, cut our way through a piece of entangled 
glacier, reached the Bergschrund, and passed it 
without a rope. We ascended the frozen snow of the 
couloir by steps, but soon diverged from it to the 
rocks at our right, and mounted them to the end of 
the eastern arete of the mountain. 

A snow saddle separated us from the higher rocks. 
With our staff-pikes at one side of the saddle, we 
pass by steps cut upon the other. We find the 
rocks hewn into fantastic turrets and obelisks, while 
the loose chips of this sculpture are strewn con- 
fusedly upon the ridge. Amid these we cautiously 


pick our way, winding round the towers or scaling 
them amain. The work was heavy from the first, 
the bending, twisting, reaching, and drawing up 
calling upon all the muscles of the frame. After 
two hours of this work we halted, and, looking back, 
saw two moving objects on the glacier below us. 
At first we took them to be chamois, but they were 
men. The leader carried an axe, and his companion 
a knapsack and an alpenstock. They followed our 
traces, losing them apparently now and then, and 
waiting to recover them. Our expedition had put 
Eanda in a state of excitement, and some of its best 
climbers had urged Bennen to take them with him. 
This he did not deem necessary, and now here were 
two of them determined to try the thing on their 
own account, and perhaps to dispute with us the 
honour of the enterprise. On this point, however, 
our uneasiness was small. 

Eesuming our gymnastics, the rocky staircase led 
us to the flat summit of a tower, where we found 
ourselves cut off from a similar tower by a deep gap 
bitten into the mountain. The rope was here our 
refuge. Bennen coiled it round his waist ; we let 
him down along the surface of the rock, until he 
fixed himself on a ledge, where he could lend me a 
helping hand. I followed him, and Wenger followed 
me. By a kind of screw motion we twisted ourselves 
round the opposite tower, and reached the ridge 


behind it. Work of this kind, however, is not to be 
performed by the day, and, with a view of sparing 
onr strength, we quitted the ridge and endeavoured 
to get along the southern slope of the pyramid. 
The mountain was scarred by long couloirs, filled 
with clear hard ice. The cutting of steps across 
these couloirs proved to be so tedious and fatiguing 
that I urged Bennen to abandon them and try the 
ridge once more. We regained it and worked 
along it as before. Here and there upon the 
northern side the snow was folded over, and we 
worked slowly upward along the cornice snow. 
The ridge became gradually narrower, and the 
precipices on each side more sheer. We reached 
the end of one of its subdivisions, and found our- 
selves separated from the next rocks by a gap about 
twenty yards across. The ridge has here narrowed 
to a mere wall, which, however, as rock, would pre- 
sent no serious difficulty. But upon the wall of 
rock was placed a second wall of snow, which 
dwindled to a pure knife-edge at the top. It 
was white, of very fine grain, and a little moist. 
How to pass this snow catenary I knew not, for I 
iid not think a human foot could trust itself upon 
so frail a support. Bennen's practical sagacity, 
nowever, came into play. He tried the snow by 
squeezing it with his foot, and to my astonishment 
began to cross it. Even after the pressure of his feet 


the space lie had to stand on did not exceed a hand* 
breadth. I followed him, exactly as a boy walking 
along a horizontal pole, with toes turned outwards. 
Right and left the precipices were appalling. We 
reached the opposite rock, and an earnest smile 
rippled over Bennen's countenance as he turned 
towards me. He knew that he had done a daring 
thing, though not a presumptuous one. ' Had the 
snow,' he said, ' been less perfect, I should not have 
thought of attempting it ; but T knew after I had 
Bet my foot upon tne ridge that we might pass 
without fear.' 

It is quite surprising what a number of things 
the simple observation made by Faraday in 1846 
enables us to explain. Bennen's instinctive act is 
justified by theory. The snow was fine in grain, 
pure, and moist. When .pressed, the attachments of 
its granules were innumerable, and their perfect 
cleanness enabled them to freeze together with a 
maximum energy. It was this freezing which gave 
the mass its sustaining power. 

Two fragments of ordinary table ice brought 
carefully together freeze and cement themselves 
at their place of junction ; or if two pieces floating 
in water be brought together, they instantly freeze, 
and by laying hold of either of them gently you 
can drag the other after it through the water. 
Imagine such points of attachment distributed in 

1861] THE WEI3SH0RN. 101 

great numbers through a mass of snow. The sul> 
stance becomes thereby a semi-solid instead of a 
mass of powder. My guide, however, unaided by 
any theory, did a thing from which I should have 
shrunk, though backed by all the theories in the 

After this we found the rocks on the ridge so 
shaken that it required the greatest caution to 
avoid bringing them down upon us. With all our 
care, moreover, we sometimes dislodged vast masses, 
which leaped upon the slope adjacent, loosened 
others by their shock, these again others, until 
finally a whole flight of them would escape, setting 
the mountain in a roar as they whizzed and thun- 
dered along its side to the snow-fields 4,000 feet 
below us. The day was hot, the work hard, and 
our bodies were drained of their liquids as by a 
Turkish bath. To make good our loss we halted 
at intervals where the melted snow formed liquid 
veins, and quenched our thirst. A bottle of cham- 
pagne, poured sparingly into our goblets over a little 
snow, furnished Wenger and myself with many a 
refreshing draught. Bennen feared his eyes, and 
would not touch champagne. We, however, did not 
find halting good ; for at every pause the muscles 
became set, and some minutes were necessary to 
render them again elastic. But for both mind and 
body the discipline was grand. There is scarcely a 


position possible to a human being which, at one 
time or another during the day, I was not forced to 
assume^ The fingers, wrist, and forearm were my 
main reliance, and as a mechanical instrument the 
human hand appeared to me this day to be a miracle 
of constructive art. 

For the most part the summit was hidden from 
us, but on reaching the successive eminences it came 
frequently into view. After three hours spent on 
the arete — about five hours, that is, subsequent to 
starting — we saw the summit over another minor 
summit, which gave it an illusive proximity. ' You 
have now good hopes,' I remarked, turning to Bennen. 
' I do not allow myself to entertain the idea of 
failure,' he replied. Well, six hours passed on the 
ridge, each of which put in its inexorable claim to 
the due amount of mechanical work ; and at the end 
of this time we found ourselves apparently no nearer 
to the summit than when Bennen's hopes cropped out 
in confidence. I looked anxiously at my guide as 
he fixed his weary eyes upon the distant peak. 
There was no confidence in his expression ; still I 
do not believe that either of us entertained for a 
moment the thought of giving in. Wenger com- 
plained of his lungs, and Bennen counselled him 
several times to remain behind ; but this the Ober- 
land man refused to do. At the commencement of 
a day's work one often feels anxious, if not timic* ; 


but when the work is very hard we become callous 
and sometimes stupefied by the incessant knocking 
about. This was my case at present, and I kept 
watch lest my indifference should become careless- 
ness. I repeatedly supposed a case where a sudden 
effort might be required of me, and felt all through 
that I had a fair residue of strength to fall back upon 
should such a call be made. This conclusion was 
sometimes tested by a spurt ; flinging myself sud- 
denly from rock to rock, I proved my condition by 
experiment instead of relying on surmise. An 
eminence in the ridge which cut off the view of the 
summit was now the object of our exertions. We 
reached it ; but how hopelessly distant did the 
summit appear ! Bennen laid his face upon his 
axe for a moment ; a kind of sickly despair was in 
his eye as he turned to me, remarking, ' Lieber 
Herr, die Spitze ist noch sehr weit oben.' 

Lest the desire to gratify me should urge him 
beyond the bounds of prudence, I told my guide 
that he must not persist on my account ; that 1 
should cheerfully return with him the moment he 
thought it no longer safe to proceed. He replied 
that, though weary, he felt quite sure of himself, and 
asked frr some food. He had it, and a gulp of wine, 
which mightily refreshed him. Looking at the 
mountain with a firmer eye, he exclaimed, ' Herr I 
wir miissen ihn haben,' and his voice, as he spoke, 


rung like steel within my heart. I thought of 
Englishmen in battle, of the qualities which had 
made them famous : it was mainly the quality of not 
knowing when to yield — of fighting for duty even 
after they had ceased to be animated by hope. 
Such thoughts helped to lift me over the rocks. 
Another eminence now fronted us, behind which, 
how far we knew not, the summit lay. We scaled 
this height, and above us, but clearly within reach, 
a silvery pyramid projected itself against the blue 
sky. I was assured ten times over by my companions 
that it was the highest point before I ventured to 
stake my faith upon the assertion. I feared that it 
also might take rank with the illusions which had so 
often beset our ascent, and I shrunk from the conse- 
quent moral shock. A huge prism of granite, or 
granitic gneiss, terminated the arete, and from it 
a knife-edge of pure white snow ran up to a little 
point. We pissed along the edge, reached that 
point, and instantly swept with our eyes the whole 
range of the horizon. We stood upon the crown of 
the redoubtable Weisshorn. 

The long-pent feelings of my two companions 
found vent in a wild and reiterated cheer. Bennen 
shook his arms in the air and shouted as a Valaisian, 
while Wenger raised the shriller yell of the Oberland. 
We looked downwards along the ridge, and far below, 
perched on one of its crags, could discern the two 

1861] THE WEISSHORN. 105 

Ran da men. Again and again the roar of triumph 
was sent down to them. They had accomplished 
but a small portion of the ridge, and soon after our 
success they wended their way homewards. They 
came, willing enough, no doubt, to publish our 
failure had we failed ; but we found out afterwards 
that they had been equally strenuous in announcing 
our success ; they had seen us, they affirmed, like 
three flies upon the summit of the mountain. Both 
men had to endure a little persecution for the truth's 
sake, for nobody in Kanda would believe that the 
Weisshorn could be scaled, and least of all by a man 
who for two days previously had been the object of 
Philomene the waitress's constant pity, on account of 
the incompetence of his stomach to accept all that 
she offered for its acceptance. The energy of con- 
viction with which the men gave their evidence had, 
however, proved conclusive to the most sceptical 
before we arrived. 

Bennen washed to leave some outward and visible 
sign of our success on the summit. He deplored 
having no suitable flag ; but as a substitute for such 
it was proposed that he should use the handle of one 
of our axes as a flagstaff, and surmount it by a red 
pocket-handkerchief. This w T as clone, and for some 
time subsequently the extempore banner was seen 
flapping in the wind. To his extreme delight, it 
was shown to Bennen himself three days afterward? 


by my friend Mr. Francis Galton, from the Riffel- 
berg hotel. 

Every Swiss climber is acquainted with the Weiss- 
horn. I have long regarded it as the noblest of 
all the Alps, and most other travellers share this 
opinion. The impression it produces is in some 
measure due to the comparative isolation with 
which it juts into the heavens. It is not masked 
by other mountains, and all around the Alps its 
final pyramid is in view. Conversely, the Weisshorn 
commands a vast range of prospect. Neither 
Bennen nor myself had ever seen anything at all 
equal to it. The day, moreover, was perfect ; not 
a cloud was to be seen ; and the gauzy haze of the 
distant air, though sufficient to soften the outlines 
and enhance the colouring of the mountains, was 
far too thin to obscure them. Over the peaks and 
through the valleys the sunbeams poured, unim- 
peded save by the mountains themselves, which 
sent their shadows in bars of darkness through the 
illuminated air. I had never before witnessed a 
scene which affected me like this one. I opened 
my note-book to make a few observations, but soon 
relinquished the attempt. There was something 
incongruous, if not profane, in allowing the scien- 
tific faculty to interfere where silent worship 
seemed the ' reasonable service.' 

We had been ten hours climbing from oui 

1861] THE WEISSIIORN. 107 

bivouac to the summit, and it was now necessary 
that we should clear the mountain before the close 
of day. Our muscles were loose and numbed, and, 
unless extremely urged, declined all energetic ten- 
sion : the thought of our success, however, ran like 
a kind of wine through our fibres and helped us 
down. We once fancied the descent would be 
rapid, but it was far from it. As in ascending, 
Bennen took the lead ; he slowly cleared each crag, 
paused till I joined him, I pausing till Wenger 
joined me, and thus one or other of us was always 
in motion. Our leader showed a preference for 
the snow, while I held on to the rocks, where my 
hands could assist my feet. Our muscles were 
sorely tried by the twisting round the splintered 
turrets of the arete, but a long, long stretch of the 
ridge must be passed before we can venture to swerve 
from it. We were roused from our stupefaction at 
times by the roar of the stones which we loosed from 
the ridge and sent leaping down the mountain. 
Soon after recrossing the snow catenary already 
mentioned we quitted the ridge to get obliquely 
along the slope of the pyramid. The face of it 
was scarred by couloirs, of which the deeper and 
narrower ones were filled with ice, while the others 
acted as highways for the rocks quarried by the 
weathering above. Steps must be cut in the ice, but 
the swing of the axe is very different now from what 


it was in the morning. Bennen's blows descended 
with the deliberateness of a man whose lire is half- 
quenched ; still they fell with sufficient power, and 
the needful cavities were formed. We retraced our 
morning steps over some of the ice-slopes. No word 
of warning was uttered here as we ascended, but 
now Bennen's admonitions were frequent and em- 
phatic — ' Take care not to slip.' I imagined, how- 
ever, that even if a man slipped he would be able to 
arrest his descent ; but Bennen's response when I 
stated this opinion was very prompt — ' No ! it would 
be utterly impossible. If it were snow you might 
do it, but it is pure ice, and if you fall you will 
lose your senses before you can use your axe.' I 
suppose he was right. At length we turned directly 
downwards, and worked along one of the ridges 
which lie in the line of steepest fall. We first 
dropped cautiously from ledge to ledge. At one 
place Bennen clung for a considerable time to a face 
of rock, casting out feelers of leg and arm, and 
desiring me to stand still. I did not understand 
the difficulty, for the rock, though steep, was by no 
means vertical. I fastened myself on to it, Bennen 
being on a ledge below, waiting to receive me. 
The spot on which he stood was a little rounded 
protuberance sufficient to afford him footing, but 
over which the slightest momentum would have 
carried him. He knew this, and hence his caution. 


Soon after this we quitted our ridge and dropped 
into a couloir to the left of it. It was dark, and 
damp with trickling water. Here we disencumbered 
ourselves of the rope, and found our speed greatly 
augmented. In some places the rocks were worn 
to a powder, along which we shot by glissades. We 
swerved again to the left, crossed a ridge, and got 
into another and dryer couloir. The last one was 
dangerous, as the water exerted a constant sapping 
action upon the rocks. From our new position we 
could hear the clatter of stones descending the 
gulley we had just forsaken. Wenger, who had 
brought up the rear during the day, is now sent to 
the front ; he has not Bennen's power, but his legs 
are long and his descent rapid. He scents out the 
way, which becomes more and more difficult. He 
pauses, observes, dodges, but finally comes to a 
dead stop on the summit of a precipice, which 
sweeps like a rampart round the mountain. We 
moved to the left, and after a long detour succeeded 
in rounding the precipice. 

Another half-hour brings us to the brow of a 
second precipice, which is scooped out along its 
centre so as to cause the brow to overhang. Chagrin 
was in Bennen's face : he turned his eyes upwards, 
and I feared mortally that he was about to propose 
a reascent to the arete. It was very questionable 
whether our muscles could have responded to such a 


demand. While we stood pondering here, a deep 
and confused roar attracted our attention. From a 
point near the summit of the Weisshorn, a rock had 
been discharged down a dry couloir, raising a cloud 
of dust at each bump against the mountain. A 
hundred similar ones were immediately in motion, 
while the spaces between the larger masses were 
filled by an innumerable flight of smaller stones. 
Each of them shook its quantum of dust in the air, 
until finally the avalanche was enveloped in a cloud. 
The clatter was stunning, for the collisions were 
incessant. Black masses of rock emerged here and 
there from the cloud, and sped through the air 
like flying fiends. Their motion was not one of 
translation merely, but they whizzed and vibrated 
in their flight as if urged by wings. The echoes 
resounded from side to side, from the Schallenberg 
to the Weisshorn and back, until finally, after many 
a deep-sounding thud in the snow, the whole troop 
came to rest at the bottom of the mountain. This 
stone avalanche was one of the most extraordinary 
things I had ever witnessed, and in connection with 
it I would draw the attention of future climbers of 
the Weisshorn to the danger which would infallibly 
beset any attempt to ascend it from this side, except 
by one of its aretes. At any moment the mountain- 
side may be raked by a fire as deadly as that of 


After due deliberation we moved along the preci- 
pice westward, I fearing that each step forward but 
plunged us into deeper difficulty. At one place, 
however, the precipice bevelled off to a steep in- 
cline of smooth rock, along which ran a crack, wide 
enough to admit the fingers, and sloping obliquely 
down to the lower glacier. Each in succession 
gripped the rock and shifted his body sideways along 
the crack until he came near enough to the glacier 
to reach it by a rough glissade. We passed swiftly 
along the glacier, sometimes running, and, on 
steeper slopes, sliding, until we were pulled up for the 
third time by a precipice which seemed even worse 
than either of the others. It was quite sheer, and 
as far as I could see right or left altogether hopeless. 
To my surprise, both the men turned without hesi- 
tation to the right. I felt desperately blank, but I 
could notice no expression of dismay in the counte- 
nance of either of my companions. They inspected 
the moraine matter over which we walked, and at 
length one of them exclaimed, ' Da sincl die Spuren,' 
lengthening his strides at the same moment. We 
looked over the brink at intervals, and at length 
discovered what appeared to be a mere streak of 
clay on the face of the precipice. On this streak 
we found footing. It was by no means easy, but to 
hard-pushed men it was a deliverance. The streak 
vanished, and we must get down the rock. Thia 


fortunately was rough, so that by pressing the hands 
against its rounded protuberances, and sticking the 
boot-nails against its projecting crystals, we let 
ourselves gradually down. A deep cleft separated 
the glacier from the precipice ; this was crossed, and 
we were free, being clearly placed beyond the last 
bastion of the mountain. 

In this admirable fashion did my guides behave 
on this occasion. The day previous to my arrival 
at Randa they had been up the mountain, and they 
then observed a solitary chamois moving along the 
base of this very precipice, and making ineffectual 
attempts to get up it. At one place the creature 
succeeded ; this spot they fixed in their memories, 
and when they reached the top of the precipice they 
sought for the traces of the chamois, found them, 
and were guided by them to the only place where 
escape in any reasonable time was possible. Our 
v* ay was now clear ; over the glacier we cheerfully 
n arched, escaping from the ice just as the moon 
and the eastern sky contributed about equally to the 
illumination. The moonlight was afterwards inter- 
cepted by clouds. In the gloom we were often at a 
loss, and wandered half-bewildered over the grassy 
slopes. At length the welcome tinkle of cow-bells 
was heard in the distance, and guided by them we 
reached the chalet a little after 9 p.m. The cows 
had been milked and the milk disposed of, but the 

1861] THE WEISSHOItN. 113 

men managed to get ns a moderate draught. Thus 
refreshed we continued the descent. I was half 
famished, for my solid nutriment during the day 
consisted solely of part of a box of meat lozenges 
given to me by Mr. Hawkins. Bennen and myself 
descended the mountain deliberately, and after many 
windings emerged upon the valley, and reached the 
hotel a little before 1 1 p.m. I had a basin of broth, 
not made according to Liebig, and a piece of mutton 
boiled probably for the fifth time. Fortified by 
these, and comforted by a warm footbath, I went 
to bed, where six hours' sound sleep chased away all 
consciousness of fatigue. I was astonished on the 
morrow to find the loose atoms of my body knitted 
so firmly by so brief a rest. Up to my attempt upon 
the Weisshorn I had felt more or less dilapidated, 
but here all weakness ended, and during my subse- 
quent stay in Switzerland I was unacquainted with 




On the afternoon of the 30th we quitted Eanda, 
witn a threatening skv overhead. The considerate 
Philomene compelled us to take an umbrella, which 
we soon found useful. The flood-gates of heaven 
were unlocked, while, defended by our cotton canopy, 
Bennen and myself walked arm-in-arm to Zermatt. 
I instantly found myself in the midst o^ a circle of 
pleasant friends, some of whom had just returned 
from a successful attempt upon the Lyskamm. On 
the 22nd quite a crowd of travellers crossed ths 
Theodule Pass ; and, knowing that every corner of 
the hotel at Breuil would be taken up, I halted a 
day, so as to allow the people to disperse. Breuil 
commands a view of the southern side of the Matter- 
horn ; and it was now an object with me to discover, 
if possible, upon the true peak of this formidable 
mountain, some ledge or cranny where three men 
might spend a night. The mountain may be ac- 
cessible or inaccessible, but one thing seems certain, 
that starting from Breuil, or even from the chalets 


above Breuil, the work of reaching the summit is 
too much for a single day. But could a shelter be 
found amid the wild battlements of the peak itself, 
which would enable one to attack the obelisk at 
day-dawn, the possibility of conquest was so far an 
open question as to tempt a trial. I therefore sent 
Bennen on to reconnoitre, purposing myself to cross 
the Theodule alone on the following day. 

On the afternoon of the 22nd I sauntered slowly 
up to the Riffel, leaning at times on the head of my 
axe, or sitting down upon the grassy knolls, as my 
mood prompted. The air which filled the valleys 
of the Oberland, and swathed in mitigated density 
the highest peaks, was slightly opalescent, though 
still transparent, the floating particles forming so 
many 'points oVappui, from which the light was 
scattered through surrounding space. The whole 
medium glowed as if shone upon by a distant fur- 
nace, and through it the outline of the mountains 
loomed. The glow augmented as the sun sank, 
reached its maximun, paused, and then ran speedily 
down to a cold and colourless twilight. 

Next morning at nine o'clock, with some scraps of 
information from the guides to help me on my way, 
I quitted the Riffel to cross the Theodule. I was 
soon followed by the domestic of the hotel. Bennen 
had requested him to see me to the edge of the 
glacier, and he now joined me with this intention. 


He knew my designs upon the Matterho/n, and 
strongly deprecated them. ' Only think, Herr,' 
he urged, 'what will avail your ascent of the 
Weisshorn if you are smashed upon the Mont Cervin ? 
Mein Herr ! ' he added with condensed emphasis, 
6 thun Sie es nicht.' The whole conversation was in 
fact a homily, the strong point of which was the 
utter uselessness of success on the one mountain if 
it were to be followed by annihilation on the 
other. We reached the ridge above the glacier, 
where, handing him a trinkgeld, which I had to force 
on his acceptance, I bade him good-bye, assuring 
him that I would submit in all things to Bennen's 
opinion. He had the highest idea of Bennen's 
wisdom, and hence the assurance sent him home 

I was soon upon the ice, once more alone, as I 
delight to be at times. As a habit going alone is 
to be deprecated, but sparingly indulged in it is a 
great luxury. There are no doubt moods when the 
mother is glad to get rid of her offspring, the wife 
of her husband, the lover of his mistress, and when 
it is not well to keep them together. And so, at 
rare intervals, it is good for the soul to feel the full 
influence of that ' society where none intrudes.' 
When the work is clearly within your power, when 
long practice has enabled you to trust your own eye 
and judgment in unravelling crevasses, and youi 



own axe and arm in subduing their more serious 
difficulties, it is an entirely new experience to be 
alone amid those sublime scenes. The peaks wear 
a more solemn aspect, the sun shines with a more 
effectual fire, the blue of heaven is more deep and 
awful, and the hard heart of man is often made as 
tender as a child's. You contract a closer friend- 
ship for the universe in virtue of your more inti- 
mate contact with its parts. The glacier to-day filled 
the air with low murmurs, while the sound of the 
distant moulins rose to a kind of roar. The debris 
rustled on the moraines, the smaller rivulets bab- 
bled in their channels, as they ran to join their 
trunk, and the surface of the glacier creaked au- 
dibly as it yielded to the sun. It seemed to breathe 
and whisper like a living thing. To my left was 
Monte Rosa and her royal court, to my right the 
mystic pinnacle of the Matterhorn, which from a 
certain point here upon the glacier attains its max- 
imum sharpness. It drew my eyes towards it with 
irresistible fascination as it shimmered in the blue, 
too preoccupied with heaven to think even with 
contempt on the designs of a son of earth to reach 
its inviolate crest. 

I crossed the Grorner glacier quite as speedily as 
if I had been professionally led. Then up the 
undulating slope of the Theodule glacier, with a 
rocky ridge to the right, over which I was informed 


a rude track led to the pass of St. Theodule. I am 
not great at finding tracks, and I missed this one, 
ascending until it became evident that I had gone 
too far. Near its' higher extremity the crest of the 
ridge is cut across by three curious chasms, and 
one of these I thought would be a likely gateway 
through the ridge. I climbed the steep buttress of 
the spur and was soon in the fissure. Huge masses 
of rock were jammed into it, the presence of which 
gave variety to the exertion, calling forth strength, 
but not exciting fear. From the summit the rocks 
sloped gently down to the snow, and in a few minutes 
the presence of broken bottles on the moraine showed 
me that I had hit upon the track. Upwards of twenty 
unhappy bees staggered against me on the way : 
tempted by the sun, or wafted by the wind, they 
had quitted the flowery Alps to meet torpor and 
death in the ice- world above. From the summit I 
went swiftly down to Breuil, where I was welcomed 
by the host, welcomed by the waiter ; loud were the 
expressions of content at my arrival ; and I was in- 
formed that Eennen had started early in the morning 
to 'promenade himself around the Matterhorn. 

I lay long upon the Alp, scanning crag and snow 

m search of my guide. From the admirable account 

of the first attempt on the Matterhorn, drawn up 

by Mr. Hawkins, 1 it may be inferred that the 

1 Chapter III. of this volume. 


ascent is not likely to be a matter of mere amuse- 
ment. The account narrates that after climbing 
for several hours in the face of novel difficulties, 
my companion thought it wise to halt so as to 
secure our retreat. I will here state in a few 
words what occurred after our separation from 
him. Bennen and I had first a hard scramble 
up some very steep rocks, our motions giving to 
those below us the impression that we were urging 
up bales of goods instead of the simple weight of our 
own bodies. Turning the corner of the ridge, we had 
to cross an unpleasant slope of smooth rock, covered 
by about eighteen inches of snow. In ascending, 
this place was passed in silence, but in coming down 
the fear arose that the superficial layer might slip 
away with us. Bennen seldom warns me, but he 
did so here emphatically, declaring his own power- 
lessness to render any help should the footing give 
way. Having crossed this slope in our ascent, we 
were fronted by a cliff, against which we rose mainly 
by aid of the felspar crystals protuberant from its 
face. Midway up the cliff Bennen asked me to hold 
on, as he did not feel sure that it was the best route. 
I accordingly ceased moving, and lay against the rock 
with legs and arms outstretched. Bennen climbed 
to the top of the cliff, but returned immediately with 
a flush of confidence in his eye. c I will lead you to 
the top,' he said excitedly. Had I been free I shoidd 


have cried c Bravo ! ' but in my position I did not 
eare to risk the muscular motion which a hearty 
bravo would demand. 

Aided by the rope, I was at his side in a minute, 
and we soon learned that his confidence was pre- 
mature. Difficulties thickened round us ; on no 
other mountain are they so thick, and each of them 
is attended by possibilities of the most blood- 
chilling kind. Our mode of motion was this : 
Bennen advanced while I held on to a rock, pre- 
pared for the jerk if he should slip. When he 
had secured himself, he called out, ' Teh bin fest, 
kommen Sie.' I then worked forward, sometimes 
halting where he had halted, sometimes passing him 
until a firm anchorage was gained, when it again 
became his turn to advance. Thus each of us waited 
until the other could seize upon something capable 
of bearing the shock of a falling man. At some 
places Bennen deemed a little extra assurance ne- 
cessary ; and here he emphasised his statement that 
he was ' fest ' by a suitable hyperbole. 6 Ich bin fest 
wie ein Mauer, — fest wie ein Berg, ich halte Sic 
gewiss,' or some such expression. 

Looking from Breuil, a series of moderate- sized 
prominences are seen along the areie of the Mat- 
terhorn ; but when you are near them, these black 
eminences rise like tremendous castles in the air, 
so wild and high as almost to quell all hope of 


scaling or getting round them. At the base of one 
of these edifices Bennen paused and looked closely 
at the grand mass ; he wiped his forehead, and 
turning to me said, 'Was denken Sie, Herr? '-- 
' Shall we go on, or shall we return ? I will do 
what you wish.' 6 I am without a wish, Bennen,' I 
replied : ' where you go I follow, be it up or down.' 
He disliked the idea of giving in, and would wil- 
lingly have thrown the onus of stopping upon me. 
We attacked the castle, and by a hard effort reached 
one of its mid ledges, whence we had plenty of 
room to examine the remainder. We might cer- 
tainly have continued the ascent beyond this place, 
but Bennen paused here. To a minute of talk suc- 
ceeded a minute of silence, during which my guide 
earnestly scanned the heights. He then turned 
towards me, and the words seemed to fall from his 
lips through a resisting medium, as he said, ' Ich 
denke die Zeit ist zu kurz' (I think the time is too 

By this time each of the neighbouring peaks had 
unfolded a cloud banner, remaining clear to wind- 
ward, but having a streamer hooked on to its 
summit and drawn far out into space by the moist 
south wind. It was a grand and affecting sight, 
grand intrinsically, but doubly impressive to feelings 
already loosened by the awe inseparable from our 
position. Looked at from Breuil, the mountain 


shows two summits separated from each other by 
a possibly impassable cleft. Only the lower one of 
these could be seen from where we stood. I asked 
Bennen how high he supposed it to be above the 
point where we then stood ; he estimated its height 
at 400 feet, I at 500 feet. Probably both of us 
were under the mark ; however, I state the fact as 
it occurred. The object of my present visit to 
Brueil was to finish the piece of work thus abruptly 
broken off, and so I awaited Bennen's return with 
anxious interest. 

At dusk I saw him striding down the Alp, and 
went out to meet him. I sought to gather his 
opinion from his eye before he spoke, but could 
make nothing out. It was perfectly firm, but might 
mean either pro or con. 6 Herr,' he said at length, 
in a tone of unusual emphasis, ' I have examined the 
mountain carefully, and find it more difficult and 
dangerous than I had imagined. There is no place 
upon it where we could well pass the night. We 
might do so on yonder col upon the snow, but there 
we should be almost frozen to death, and totally un- 
fit for the work of the next day. On the rocks there 
is no ledge or cranny which could give us proper 
harbourage ; and starting from Breuil it is certainly 
impossible to reach the summit in a single day.' I 
was entirely taken back by this report. Bennen 
was evidently dead against any attempt upon the 


mountain. 'We can, at all events, reach the lower 
of the two summits,' I remarked. ' Even that is 
difficult,' he replied ; ' but when you have reached 
it, what then ? The peak has neither name nor fame.' 
I was silent ; slightly irascible, perhaps ; but it was 
against my habit to utter a word of remonstrance or 
persuasion. Bennen made his report with his eyes 
open. He knew me well, and I think mutual trust 
has rarely been more strongly developed between 
guide and traveller than between him and me. I 
knew that I had but to give the word and he would 
face the mountain with me next day, but it would 
have been inexcusable in me to deal thus with him. 
So I stroked my beard, and, like Lelia in the ' Prin- 
cess,' when 

Upon the sward 
She tapt her tiny silken-sandal'd foot, 

I crushed the grass with my hobnails, seeking thus 
a safety-valve for my disappointment. 

My sleep was unsatisfying that night, and on the 
following morning I felt a void within. The hope 
of finishing my work creditably had been suddenly 
dislodged, and, for a time, vacuity took its place. 
It was like the removal of a pleasant drug or the 
breaking down of a religious faith. I hardly knew 
what to do with myself. One thing was certain — 
the Italian valleys had no tonic strong enough to 
set me right ; the mountains alone could restore 


ivhat I had lost. Over the Joch then once more ! 
We packed up and bade farewell to the host and 
waiter. Both men seemed smitten with a sudden 
languor, and could hardly respond to my adieus. 
They had expected us to be their guests for some 
time, and were evidently disgusted at our want of 
pluck. ' Mais, monsieur, il faut faire la penitence 
pour une nuit.' Veils of the silkiest cloud began to 
draw themselves round the mountain, and to stretch 
in long gauzy filaments through the air, where 
they finally curdled up to common cloud, and lost 
the grace and beauty of their infancy. Had they 
condensed to thunder I should have been better 
satisfied ; but it was some consolation to see them 
thicken so as to hide the mountain, and quench the 
longing with which I should have viewed its un- 
clouded head. The thought of spending some days 
chamois-hunting occurred to me. Bennen seized the 
idea with delight, promising me an excellent gun. 
We crossed the summit, descended to Zermatt, 
paused there to refresh ourselves, and went forward 
to St. Nicholas, where we spent the night. 

186] ' ( OVER THE MORO. 1 25 



I had only seen one half of Monte Rosa ; and from 
the Italian side the aspect of the mountain was 
unknown to me. I had been upon the Monte Moro 
three years ago, but looked from it merely into an 
infinite sea of haze. To complete my knowledge of 
the mountain it was necessary to go to Macugnaga, 
and over the Moro I accordingly resolved to go. 
But resolution had as yet taken no deep root, and on 
reaching Saas I was beset by the desire to cross the 
Alphubel. Bennen called me at three ; but over the 
pass grey clouds were hanging, and, determined not 
to mar this fine excursion by choosing an imperfect 
day, I then gave it up. At seven o'clock, however, 
all trace of cloud had disappeared ; it had been 
merely a local gathering of no importance, which the 
first sunbeams resolved into transparency. It was 
now, however, too late to think of the Alphubel, 
go I reverted to my original design, and at 9 a.m. 
started up the valley towards Mattmark. A party 


of friends in advance contributed strongly to draw 
me on in this direction. 

Onward then we went through the soft green 
meadows, with the river sounding to our right. The 
8im showered gold upon the pines, and brought richly 
out the colouring of the rocks. The blue wood- 
smoke ascended from the hamlets, and the compa- 
nionable grasshopper sang and chirruped right and 
left. High up the sides of the mountains the rocks 
were planed down to tablets by the ancient glaciers. 
The valley narrowed, and we skirted a pile of 
moraine-like matter, which was roped compactly to- 
gether by the roots of the pines. Huge blocks here 
choke the channel of the river, and raise its murmurs 
to a roar. We emerge from shade into sunshine, 
and observe the smoke of a distant cataract jetting 
from the side of the mountain. Crags and boulders 
are here heaped in confusion upon the hill-side, and 
among them the hardy trees find a lodgment, asking 
no nutriment from the stones — asking only a pedes- 
tal on which they may plant their trunks and lift 
their branches into the nourishing air. Then comes 
the cataract itself, plunging in rhythmic gushes down 
the shining rocks. 

The valley again opens, and finds room for a little 
hamlet — dingy hovels, with a white little church 
in the midst of them ; patches of green meadow and 
yellow rye, with the gleam of the river here and 

1861] OVER THE MORO. 127 

there. The moon hangs over the Mischabelhorner, 
turning a face which ever waxes paler towards the 
sun. The valley in the distance seems shut in by 
the Allalein glacier, which is approached amid the 
waterworn boulders strewn by the river in its hours 
of turbulence. The rounded rocks are now beauti- 
fied with lichens, and scattered trees glimmer among 
the heaps. Nature heals herself. She feeds the 
glacier and planes the mountains down. She fuses 
the glacier and exposes the dead rocks. But instantly 
her energies are exerted to neutralise the desolation, 
clothing the crags with beauty, and sending the 
wandering wind in melody through the branches 
of the pines. 

At the Matt-mark hotel, which stands at the foot 
of the Monte Moro, I was joined by a gentleman who 
had just liberated himself from an unpleasant guide. 
Bennen halted on the way to adjust his knapsack, 
while my companion and myself went on. We lost 
sight of my guide, lost the track also, and clambered 
over crag and snow to the summit, where we waited 
till Bennen arrived. The mass of Monte Eosa here 
grandly revealed itself from top to bottom. Dark 
cliffs and white snows were finely contrasted, and the 
longer I looked at it, the more noble and impressive 
did the mountain appear. We were very soon clear 
of the snow, and went straight down the declivity 
towards Macugnaga. 


We put up at the Monte Moro, where a party of 
friends greeted me with a vociferous welcome. This 
was- my first visit to Macugnaga, and, save as a 
caldron for the generation of fogs, I knew scarcely 
anything about it. But there were no fogs there at 
the time to which I refer, and the place wore quite 
a charmed aspect. I walked out alone in the even- 
ing, up through the meadow T s towards the base of 
Monte Rosa, and on no other occasion have I seen 
peace, beauty, and grandeur so harmoniously blended. 
Earth and air were exquisite, and I returned to the 
hotel brimful of content. 

Monte Rosa with her peaks and spurs builds here 
a noble amphitheatre. From the heart of the 
mountain creeps the Macugnaga glacier. To the 
right a precipitous barrier extends to the Cima di 
Jazzi, and between the latter and Monte Rosa this 
barrier is scarred by two couloirs, one of which, or 
the cliff beside it, has the reputation of forming 
the old pass of the Weissthor. It had long been 
uncertain whether this so-called ' Alter Pass ' had 
ever been used as such, and many superior moun- 
taineers deemed it from inspection to be imprac- 
ticable. All doubt on this point was removed this 
year ; for Mr. Tuckett, led by Bennen, had crossed 
the barrier by the couloir most distant from Monte 
Rosa, and consequently nearest to the Cima di 
Jazzi. As I stood in front of the hotel in tho 

18(51] OVER THE MORO. 129 

afternoon, I said to Bennen that I should like to 
try the pass on the following day ; in ten minutes 
afterwards the plan of our expedition was arranged. 
We were to start before the dawn, and, to leave 
Bennen's hands free, a muscular young fellow named 
Andermatten was engaged to carry our provisions. 
It was also proposed to vary the proceedings by 
assailing the ridge by the couloir nearest to Moiito 



I was called by my host at a quarter before three. 
The firmament of Monte Rosa was almost as black 
as the rocks beneath it, while above in the darkness 
trembled the stars. At 4 a.m. we quitted the hotel. 
We wound along the meadows, by the slumbering 
houses, and the unslumbering river. The eastern 
heaven soon brightened, and we could look direct 
through the gloom of the valley at the opening of 
the dawn. We threaded our way amid the boulders 
which the torrent had scattered over the plain, and 
among which groups of stately pines now find 
anchorage. Some of the trees had exerted all their 
force in a vertical direction, and rose straight, tali, 
and mastlike, without lateral branches. We reached 
a great moraine, grey with years, and clothed with 
magnificent pines ; our way lay up it, and from the 
top we dropped into a little dell of magical beauty. 
Deep hidden by the glacier-built ridges, guarded by 
noble trees, soft and green at the bottom, and tufted 
round with bilberry bushes, through which peeped 
here and there the lichen-covered crags, I have 


rarely seen a spot in which I should so like to 
dream away a day. Before I entered it, Monte 
Rosa was still in shadow, but on my emergence 
I noticed that her precipices were all aglow. The 
purple colouring of the mountains observed on 
looking down the valley was indescribable ; out of 
Italy I have never seen anything like it. Oxygen 
and nitrogen could not produce the effect ; some 
effluence from the earth, some foreign constituent 
of the atmosphere, developed in those deep valleys 
by the southern sun, must sift the solar beams, 
weaken the rays of medium refrangibility, and 
blend the red and violet of the spectrum to that 
incomparable hue. The air indeed is filled with 
floating matters which vary from day to day, and 
it is mainly to such extraneous substances that the 
chromatic splendours of our atmosphere are to be 
ascribed. The air south of the Alps is in this respect 
different from that on the north, but a modicum 
even of arsenic might be respired with satisfaction, 
if warmed by the bloom which suffused the air of 
Italy this glorious dawn. 

The ancient moraines of the Macugnaga glacier 
rank among the finest that I have seen ; long, high 
ridges tapering from base to edge, hoary with age, 
but beautified by the shrubs and blossoms of to- 
day. We crossed the ice and them. At the foot of 
the uld Weissthor lay couched a small glacier, which 


had landed a multitude of boulders on the slope 
below it ; and amid these we were soon threading 
our way. We crossed the little glacier, which at one 
place strove to be disagreeable, and here I learned 
from the deportment of his axe the kind of work to 
which our porter had been previously accustomed. 
Half a dozen strokes shook the head of the im- 
plement from its handle. We reached the rocks to 
the right of the couloir and climbed them for some 
distance. At the base the ice was cut by profound 
fissures, which extended quite across, and rendered a 
direct advance up the gulley impossible ; but higher 
up we dropped down upon the snow. 

Close to the rocks it was scarred by a furrow 
six or eight feet deep, and about twelve in width, 
evidently the track of avalanches, or of rocks let 
loose from the heights. Into this we descended. 
The bottom was firm, and roughened by stones 
which found a lodgment there. It seemed that 
we had here a very suitable roadway to the top. 
But a sudden crash was heard aloft. I looked 
upward, and right over the snow-brow which closed 
the view perceived a large brown boulder in the air, 
while a roar of unseen stones showed that the visible 
projectile was merely the first shot of a general 
cannonade. They appeared — pouring straight down 
upon us — the sides of the furrow preventing them 
from squandering their force in any other direction. 


4 Sclmell ! ' shouted the man behind me, and there 
is a ring in the word, when sharply uttered in the 
Alps, that almost lifts a man off his feet. I sprang 
forward, but, urged by a sterner impulse, the man 
behind sprung right on to me. We cleared the 
furrow exactly as the first stone flew by, and once in 
safety we could calmly admire the energy with which 
the rattling boulders sped along. 

Our way now lay up the couloir ; the snow was 
steep, but knobbly, and hence but few steps were 
required to give the boots a hold. We crossed and 
recrossed obliquely, like a horse drawing a laden 
cart up hill. At times we paused and examined the 
heights. The view ended in the snow-fields above, 
but near the summit suddenly rose a high ice-wall. 
If we persisted in the couloir, this barrier would 
have to be surmounted, and the possibility of 
scaling it was very questionable. Our attention 
therefore was turned to the rocks at our right, and 
the thought of assailing them was several times 
mooted and discussed. They at length seduced us, 
and we resolved to abandon the snow. To reach the 
rocks, however, we had to recross the avalanche 
channel, which was here very deep. Bennen hewed 
a gap at the top of its flanking wall, and, stooping- 
over, scooped steps out of its vertical face. He 
then made a deep hole, in which he anchored his 
left arm, let himself thus partly down, and with lay 


right pushed the steps to the bottom. While this was 
going on small stones were continually flying down 
the gulley. Bennen reached the floor, and I followed. 
Our companion was still clinging to the snow- wall, 
when a horrible clatter was heard overhead. It was 
another stone avalanche, which there was hardly a 
hope of escaping. Happily a rock was here firmly 
stuck in the bed of the gulley, and I chanced to be 
beside it when the first huge missile appeared. 
This was the delinquent which had set the others 
loose. I was directly in the line of fire, but, 
ducking behind the boulder, I let the projectile 
shoot over my head. Behind it came a shoal of 
smaller fry, each of them, however, quite competent 
to crack a human life. ' Schnell ! ' with its metallic 
clang, rung from the throat of Bennen ; and never 
before had I seen his axe so promptly and vigor- 
ously applied. 

While this infernal cannonade was directed upon 
us we hung upon a slope of snow which had been 
pressed and polished to ice by the descending 
stones, and so steep that a single slip would have 
converted us into an avalanche also. Without steps 
of some kind we dared not set foot on the slope, 
and these had to be cut while the stone shower 
was falling on us. Mere scratches in the ice, how 
ever, were all the axe could accomplish, and on. 
these we steadied ourselves with the energy of 


desperate men. Bennen was first, and I followed 
him, while the stones flew thick beside and between 
us. My excellent guide thought of me more than 
of himself, and once caught upon the handle of 
his axe, as a cricketer catches a ball upon his bat, 
a lump which might have finished my climbing. 
The labour of his axe was here for a time divided 
between the projectiles and the ice, while at every 
pause in the volley ' he cut a step and sprang 
forward.' Had the peril been less, it would have 
been amusing to see our duckings and contortions 
as we fenced with our swarming foes. A final jump 
landed us on an embankment out of the direct line 
of fire, and we thus escaped a danger extremely 
exciting to us all. 

We had next to descend an ice-slope to a place 
at which the rocks could be invaded. Here 
Andermatten slipped, shot down the slope, knocked 
Bennen off his legs, but before the rope had jerked 
me off mine the guide had stopped his flight. The 
porter's hat, however, followed the rushing stones. 
It was shaken off his head and lost. If discipline for 
eye, limb, head, and heart be of any value, we had 
it, and were still likely to have it, here. Our first 
experience of the rocks was by no means comforting : 
they were uniformly steep, and, as far as we could 
judge from a long look upwards, they were likely to 
continue so. A stififer bit than ordinary intervened 


now and then, making us feel how possible it was to 
be entirely cut off. 

We at length reached real difficulty number one. 
All three of us were huddled together on a narrow 
ledge, with a smooth and vertical cliff above us. 
Bennen tried it in various ways, but he was several 
times forced back to the ledge. At length he 
managed to hook the fingers of one har^d over the 
top of the cliff, while to aid his grip he tried to 
fasten his shoes against its face. But the nails 
scraped freely over the granular surface, and he 
had for a time to lift himself almost by a single 
arm. As he did so he had as ugly a place beneath 
him as a human body could well be suspended over. 
We were tied to him of course ; but the jerk, 
had his grip failed, would have been terrible. He 
raised at length his breast to a level with the 
top, and leaning over it he relieved the strain. 
Seizing upon something further on, he lifted himself 
quite to the top ; then tightened the rope, while I 
slowly worked myself over the face of the cliff after 
him. We were soon side by side, and immediately 
afterwards Andermatten, with his long unkempt 
hair, and face white with excitement, hung midway 
between heaven and earth supported by the rope 
alone. We hauled him up bodily, and as he stood 
upon the ledge his limbs quivered beneath him. 

We now strained slowly upwards amid the maze 


of crags, and scaled a second cliff, resembling, though 
in a modified form, that just described. There was 
no peace, no rest, no delivery from the anxiety 
' which weighed upon the heart.' Bennen looked 
extremely blank, and often cast an eye downward to 
the couloir we had quitted, muttering aloud, ' Had 
we only held on to the snow ! ' He had soon reason 
to emphasise his ejaculation. 

After climbing for some time, we reached a smooth 
vertical face of rock from which, right or left, there 
was no escape, and over which we must go. Bennen 
first tried it unaided, but was obliged to recoil. 
Without a lift of five or six feet the thing was im- 
possible. When a boy I have often climbed a wall 
by placing a comrade in a stooping posture with 
his hands and head against the wall, getting on his 
back, and permitting him gradually to straighten 
himself till he became erect. This plan I now pro- 
posed to Bennen, offering to take him on my back. 
' Nein, Herr I ' he replied ; c nicht Sie, ich will es mit 
Andermatten versuchen.' I could not persuade him, 
so Andermatten got upon the ledge, and fixed hia 
knee for Bennen to stand on. In this position my 
guide obtained a precarious grip, just sufficient to 
enable him to pass with safety from the knee to the 
shoulder. He paused here, and pulled away such 
splinters as might prove treacherous if he laid hold 
of them. He at length found a firm one, and had 


next to urge himself, not fairly upward, for right 
above us the top was entirely out of reach, but 
obliquely along the face of the cliff. He suc- 
ceeded, anchored himself, and called upon me to 

The rope was tight, it is true, but it was not 
vertical, so that a slip would cause me to swing like 
a pendulum over the cliffs face. With considerable 
effort I managed to hand Bennen his axe, and while 
doing so my own staff escaped me and was irre- 
coverably lost. I ascended Andermatten's shoulders 
as Bennen did, but my body was not long enough to 
bridge the way to the guide's arm ; so I had to risk 
the possibility of becoming a pendulum. A little 
protrusion gave my left foot some support. I sud- 
denly raised myself a yard, and here was met by 
the iron grip of my guide. In a second I was safely 
stowed away in a neighbouring fissure. Ander- 
matten now remained. He first detached himself 
from the rope- tied it round his coat and knapsack, 
which were drawn up. The rope was again let 
down, and the porter tied it firmly round his waist. 
It was not made in England, and was perhaps lighter 
than it ought to be; so to help it hands and feet 
were scraped with spasmodic energy over the rock. 
He struggled too much, and Bennen cried sharply, 
; Langsam ! langsam ! Keine Furcht ! ' The poor 
fellow looked very pale and bewildered as his bar« 

1861] TirE OLD WEISSTHOR. 139 

head emerged above the ledge. His body soon 
followed. Bennen always used the imperfect for the 
present tense, ' Er war ganz bleich,' lie remarked to 
me, by the ' war ' meaning ist. 

The young man seemed to regard Bennen with 
a kind of awe. ' Sir,' he exclaimed, ' you would 
not find another guide in Switzerland to lead you 
up here.' Nor, indeed, in Bennen's behalf be it 
spoken, would he have done so if he could have 
avoided it ; but we had fairly got into a net, the 
meshes of which must be resolutely cut. I had 
previously entertained the undoubting belief that 
where a chamois could climb a man could follow ; 
but when I saw the marks of the animal on these all 
but inaccessible ledges, my belief, though not eradi- 
cated, became weaker than it had previously been. 

Onward again, slowly winding through the craggy 
mazes, and closely scanning the cliffs as we ascended. 
Our easiest work was stiff, but the i stiff' was an 
agreeable relaxation from the perilous. By a lateral 
deviation we reached a point whence we could look 
into the couloir by which Mr. Tuckett had ascended : 
here Bennen relieved himself by a sigh and ejacula- 
tion : ' Would that we had chosen it ! we might pass 
up yonder rocks blindfold ! ' But repining was 
useless ; our work was marked out for us and had to 
be accomplished. After another difficult tug Bennen 
reached a point whence he could see a large extent 


of the rocks above us. There was no serious diffi- 
culty within view, and the announcement of this 
cheered us mightily. Every vertical yard, however, 
was to be won only by strenuous effort. For a long 
time the snow cornice hung high above us ; we now 
approached its level ; the last cliff formed a sloping 
stair with geologic strata for steps. We sprang up 
it, and the magnificent snow-field of the Grdrner 
glacier immediately opened to our view. The 
anxiety of the last four hours disappeared like an 
unpleasant dream, and with that perfect happiness 
which perfect health can alone impart, we consumed 
our cold mutton and champagne on the summit of 
the old Wei&ithor. 




Mr. Huxley and myself had been staying for some 
days at Grrindelwald, hoping for steady weather, and 
looking at times into the wild and noble region 
which the Shreckhorn, the Wetterhorn, the Viescher- 
horner, and the Eiger feed with eternal snows. We 
had scanned the buttresses of the Jungfrau with a 
view to forcing a passage between the Jungfrau and 
the Monk from the Wengern Alp to the Aletsch 
glacier. The weather for a time kept hopes and 
fears alternately afloat, but finally it declared against 
us ; so we moved with the unelastic tread of beaten 
soldiers over the Great Sheideck, and up the Vale 
of Hasli to the Grrimsel. We crossed the pass 
whose planed and polished rocks had long ago at- 
tracted the attention of Sir John Leslie, though the 
solution which he then offered ignored the ancient 
glacier which we now know to have been the planing 
tool employed. On rounding an angle of the Mayen- 
wand, two travellers suddenly appeared in front of 
us ; they were Mr. (now Sir John^ Lubbock and hia 


guide. He had been waiting at the new hotel 
erected by M. Seiler at the foot of the Mayenwand, 
expecting our arrival ; and finally, despairing of this, 
he had resolved to abandon the mountains, and was 
now bound for Brientz. In fact, the lakes of Swit- 
zerland, and the ancient men who once bivouacked 
along their borders, were to him the principal 
objects of interest ; and we caught him in the act 
of declaring a preference for the lowlands which we 
could not by any means share. 

We reversed his course, carried him with us down 
the mountain, and soon made ourselves at home in 
M. Seller's hotel. Here we had three days' training 
on the glacier and the adjacent heights, and on one 
of the days Lubbock and myself made an attempt 
upon the Gralenstock. By the flank of the mountain, 
with the Ehone glacier on our right, we reached the 
heights over the ice cascade and crossed the glacier 
above the fall. The sky was clear and the air 
pleasant as we ascended ; but in the earth's atmo- 
sphere the sun works his swiftest necromancy, the 
lightness of air rendering it in a peculiar degree 
capable of change. Clouds suddenly generated came 
drifting up the valley of the Rhone, covering the 
glacier ard swathing the mountain-tops, but leav- 
ing clear for a time the upper neve of the Rhone. 
Grandeur is conceded while beauty is sometimes 
denied to the Alps. But the higher snow-fields of 


the great glaciers are altogether beautiful — not 
throned in repellent grandeur, but endowed with a 
grace so tender as to suggest the loveliness of woman. 

The day was one long succession of surprises 
wrought by the cloud-filled and wind-rent air. We 
reached the top, and found there a gloom which 
might be felt. It was almost thick enough to cut 
each of us away from the vision of his fellows. But 
suddenly, in the air above us, the darkness would 
melt away, and the deep blue heaven would reveal 
itself spanning the dazzling snows. Beyond the 
glacier rose the black and craggy summit of* the 
Finsteraarhorn, and other summits and other crags 
emerged in succession as the battle-clouds rolled 
away. But the smoke would again whirl in upon us, 
and we looked once more into infinite haze from the 
cornice which lists the mountain-ridge. Again the 
clouds are torn asunder, and again they close. And 
thus, in upper air, did the sun play a wild accompa- 
niment to the mystic music of the world below. 

From the Rhone glacier we proceeded down the 
Rhone valley to Viesch, whence, in the cool twilight, 
all three of us ascended to the Hotel Jungfrau, on 
the JEggischhorn. This we made our head-quarters 
for some days, and here Lubbock and I decided 
to ascend the Jungfrau. The proprietor of the 
hotel keeps guides for this excursion, but his charges 
are so high as to be almost prohibitory. I, however, 


Deeded no guide in addition to my faithful Bennen ; 
but simply a porter of sufficient strength and skill to 
follow where he led. In the village of Laax Bennen 
found such a porter — a young man named Bielander, 
who had the reputation of being both courageous 
and strong. He was the only son of his mother, 
and she was a widow. 

This young man and a second porter we sent on 
with our provisions to the Grotto of the Faulberg, 
where we were to spend the night. Between the 
^ggischhorn and this cave the glacier presents no 
difficulty which the most ordinary caution cannot 
overcome, and the thought of danger in connection 
with it never occurred to us. An hour and a half 
after the departure of oar porters we slowly wended 
our way to the lake of Marjelin, which we skirted, 
and were soon upon the ice. The middle of the 
glacier was almost as smooth as a carriage-road, cut 
here and there by musical brooks produced by the 
superficial ablation. To Lubbock the scene opened 
out with the freshness of a new revelation, as, 
previously to this year, he had never been among 
the glaciers of the Alps. To me, though not new, 
the region had lost no trace of the interest with 
which I first viewed it. We moved briskly along 
the frozen incline, until, after a couple of hours' 
march, we saw a solitary human being standing on 
the lateral moraine of the glacier, near the point 


where we were to quit it for the cave of the 

At first this man excited no attention. He stood 
and watched us, but did not come towards us, 
until finally our curiosity was aroused by observing 
that he was one of our own two men. The glacier 
here is always cut by crevasses, which, while they 
present no real difficulty, require care. We ap- 
proached our porter, but he never moved ; and when 
we came up to him he looked stupid, and did not 
speak until he was spoken to. Bennen addressed 
him in the patois of the place, and he answered in 
the same patois. His answer must have been more 
than usually obscure, for Bennen misunderstood 
the most important part of it. 6 My Grod ! ' he 
exclaimed, turning to us, ' Walters is killed ! ' 
Walters was the guide at the iEggischhorn, with 
whom, in the present instance, we had nothing to 
do. ' No, not Walters,' responded the man; 'it is 
my comrade that is killed.' Bennen looked at him 
with a wild bewildered stare. ' How killed ? ' he 
exclaimed. ' Lost in a crevasse,' was the reply. We 
were all so stunned that for some moments we did 
not quite seize the import of the terrible statement. 
Bennen at length tossed his arms in the air, ex- 
claiming, 6 Jesu Maria ! what am I to do ? ' With 
the swiftness that some ascribe to dreams, I surrounded 
the fact with imaginary adjuncts, one of which was 


that the man had been drawn dead from the crevasse, 
and was now a corpse in the cave of the Faulberg , 
for I took it for granted that, had he been still 
entombed, his comrade would have run or called 
for our aid. Several times in succession the porter 
affirmed that the missing man was certainly dead. 
4 How does he know that he is dead ? ' Lubbock 
demanded. ' A man is sometimes rendered insen- 
sible by a fall without being killed.' This question 
was repeated in German, but met with the same 
dogmatic response. ' Where is the man ? ' I asked. 
6 There,' replied the porter, stretching his arm to- 
wards the glacier. ' In the crevasse ? ' A stolid 
' Ja ! ' was the answer. It was with difficulty that 
I quelled an imprecation. ' Lead the way to the 
place, you blockhead,' and he led the way. 

We were soon beside a wide and jagged cleft 
which resembled a kind of cave more than an or- 
dinary crevasse. This cleft had been spanned by a 
snow bridge, now broken, and to the edge of which 
footsteps could be traced. The glacier at the place 
was considerably torn, but simple patience was 
the only thing needed to unravel its complexity. 
This quality our porter lacked, and, hoping to make 
shorter work of it, he attempted to cross the bridge. 
It gave way, and he went down, carrying an immense 
load of debris along with him. We looked into the 
hole, at one end of which the vision was cut short 


by darkness, while immediately under the broken 
bridge it was crammed with snow and shattered 
icicles. We saw nothing more. We listened with 
strained attention, and from the depths of the 
glacier issued a low moan. Its repetition assured 
us that it was no delusion — the man was still alive. 
Bennen from the first had been extremely excited ; 
and the fact of his having, as a Catholic, saints 
and angels to appeal to, augmented his emotion. 
When he heard the moaning he became almost 
frantic. He attempted to get into the crevasse, 
but was obliged to recoil. It was quite plain that a 
second life was in danger, for my guide seemed to 
have lost all self-control. I placed my hand heavily 
upon his shoulder, and admonished him that upon 
his coolness depended the life of his friend. ' If 
you behave like a man, we shall save him ; if like 
a woman, he is lost.' 

A first-rate rope accompanied the party, but un- 
happily it was with the man in the crevasse. Coats, 
waistcoats, and braces were instantly taken off and 
knotted together. I watched Bennen while this 
work was going on ; his hands trembled with ex- 
citement, and his knots were evidently insecure. 
The last junction complete, he exclaimed, ' Now let 
me down ! ' ; Not until each of these knots has been 
tested ; not an inch ! ' ! Two of them gave way, and 

1 'Ach, Herr,' he replied to one of my remonstrances, 'Sein Sic 
uicht so hart.' 


Lubbock's waistcoat also proved too tender for the 
strain. The debris was about forty feet from the 
surface of the glacier, but two intermediate promi- 
nences afforded a kind of footing. Bennen was 
dropped down upon one of these ; I followed, being 
let down by Lubbock and the other porter. Bennen 
then descended the remaining distance, and was fol- 
lowed by me. More could not find room. 

The shape and size of the cavity were such as to 
produce a kind of resonance, which rendered it 
difficult to fix the precise spot from which the 
sound issued ; but the moaning continued, becoming 
to all appearance gradually feebler. Fearing to 
wound the man, the ice-rubbish was cautiously 
rooted away ; it rang curiously as it fell into the 
adjacent gloom. A layer two or three feet thick 
was thus removed ; and finally, from the frozen mass, 
and so bloodless as to be almost as white as the sur- 
rounding snow, issued a single human hand. The 
fingers moved. Round it we rooted, cleared the arm, 
and reached the knapsack, which we cut away. We 
also regained our rope*. The man's head was then 
laid bare, and my brandy-flask was immediately at 
his lips. He tried to speak, but his words jumbled 
themselves to a dull moan. Bennen's feelings got 
the better of him at intervals ; he wrought like 
a hero, but at times he needed guidance and stern 
admonition. The arms once free, we passed the 



rope underneath them, and tried to draw the man 
out. But the ice-fragments round him had regelated 
so as to form a solid case. Thrice we essayed to 
draw him up, thrice we failed ; he had literally to 
be hewn out of the ice, and not until his last foot 
was extricated were we able to lift him. By pulling 
him from above, and pushing him from below, the 
man was at length raised to the surface of the glacier. 
For an hour we had been in the crevasse in shirt- 
sleeves — the porter had been in it for two hours — 
and the dripping ice had drenched us. Bennen, 
moreover, had worked with the energy of madness, 
and now the reaction came. He shook as if he 
would fall to pieces ; but brandy and some dry 
covering revived him. The rescued man was help- 
less, unable to stand, unable to utter an articulate 
sentence. Bennen proposed to carry him down the 
glacier towards home. Had this been attempted, 
the man would certainly have died upon the ice. 
Bennen thought he could carry him foi two hours ; 
but the guide underrated his own exhaustion and 
overrated the vitality of the porter. ' It cannot be 
thought of, 5 I said : ' to the cave of Faulberg, where 
we must tend him as well as we can.' We got him 
to the side of the glacier, where Bennen took him 
on his back ; in ten minutes he sank under his 
load. It was now my turn, so I took the man on 
my back and jjlodded on with him as far as I was 



able. Helping each other thus by turns, we reached 
the mountain grot. 

The sun had set, and the crown of the Jungfrau 
was embedded in amber light. Thinking that the 
Marjelin See might be reached before darkness, I 
proposed starting in search of help. Bennen pro- 
tested against my going alone, and I thought I 
noticed moisture in Lubbock's eye. Such an oc- 
casion brings out a man's feeling if he have any. I 
gave them both my blessing and made for the glacier. 
But my anxiety to get quickly clear of the crevasses 
defeated its own object. Thrice I found myself in 
difficulty, and the light was visibly departing. The 
conviction deepened that persistence would be folly, 
and the most impressive moment of my existence 
was that on which I stopped at the brink of a 
profound fissure and looked upon the mountains and 
the sky. The serenity was perfect — not a cloud, 
not a breeze, not a sound, while the last hues of 
eunset spread over the solemn west. 

I returned ; warm wine was given to our patient, 
and all our dry clothes were wrapped around him. 
Hot-water bottles were placed at his feet, and his 
back was briskly rubbed. He continued to groan a 
long time ; but, finally, both this and the trembling- 
ceased Bennen watched him solemnly, and at 
length muttered in anguish, 6 Sir, he is dead ! ' I 
leaned over the man and found him breathing 


gently ; I felt his pulse — it was beating tranquilly, 
' Not dead, dear old Bennen ; he will be able to 
crawl home with us in the morning.' The pre- 
diction was justified by the event ; and two days 
afterwards we saw him at Laax, minus a bit of his 
ear, with a bruise upon his cheek, and a few scars 
upon his hand, but without a broken bone or serious 
injury of any kind. 

The self-denying conduct of the second porter 
made us forget his stupidity — it may have been 
stupefaction. As I lay there wet, through the long 
hours of that dismal night, I almost registered a 
vow never to tread upon a glacier again. But, like 
the forces in the physical world, human emotions 
vary with the distance from their origin, and a year 
afterwards I was again upon the ice. 

Towards the close of 1862 Bennen and myself 
made ' the tour of Monte Eosa,' halting for a day 
or two at the excellent hostelry of Delapierre, in 
the magnificent Val du Lys We scrambled up the 
Grrauhaupt, a point exceedingly favourable to the 
study of the conformation of the Alps. We also 
halted at Alagna and Macugnaga. But, notwith- 
standing their admitted glory, the Italian valleys 
did not suit either Bennen or me. We longed 
for the more tonic air of the northern slopes, and 
were ghd to change the valley of Ansasca for 


that of Saas. We subsequently, on a perfect day, 
crossed the Alphubel Joch — a very noble pass, 
and by no means difficult if the ordinary route be 
followed. But Bennen and I did not follow that 
route. We tried to cross the mountains obliquely 
from the chalets of Tasch, close under the Alphubel, 
and, as a consequence, encountered on a spur of the 
mountain a danger to which I will not further refer 
than to say that Bennen's voice is still present to 
me as he said, ' Ach, Herr ! es thut mir Leid. Sie 
hier zu sehen\' l 

1 Rendered in accordance with the tone and sentiment, v iiia 
would be, 'Ah! sir. it breaks my heart to see you here.' 



> . 


Four years ago I had not entertained a wish or a 
thought regarding the climbing of the Matterhorn. 
Indeed, assailing mountains of any kind was then 
but an accidental interlude to less exciting occupa- 
tions upon the glaciers of the Alps. But in 1859 
Mr. Vaughan Hawkins had inspected the mountain 
from Breuil, and in 1860, on the strength of this 
inspection, he invited me to join him in an attack 
upon the untrodden peak. Gruided by Johann 
Bennen, and accompanied by an old chamois-hunter 
named Carrel, we tried the mountain, but had to 
halt midway among its precipices. We returned to 
Breuil with the belief that, if sufficient time could 
be secured, the summit — at least, one summit — - 
might be won. Had I felt that we had done our 
best on this occasion, I should have relinquished all 
further thought of the mountain ; but, unhappily, 
I felt the reverse, and thus a little cloud of dissatis- 
faction hung round the memory of the attempt. 
In 1861 I once more looked at the Matterhorn, but, 


as shown in Chapter X., was forbidden to set foot 
upon it. Finally, in 1862, the desire to finish what 
I felt to be a piece of work only half completed 
beset me so strongly that I resolved to make a last 
attack upon the imconquered hill. 

The resolution, as a whole, may have been a rash 
one, but there was no rashness displayed in the 
carrying out of its details. I did not ignore the 
law of gravity, but felt, on the contrary, that the 
strongest aspirations towards the summit of the 
Matterhorn would not prevent precipitation to its 
base through a false step or a failing grasp. The 
general plan proposed was this : Two first-rate 
guides were to be engaged, and, to leave their arms 
free, they were to be accompanied by two strong 
and expert porters. The party was thus to consist 
of five in all. During the ascent it was proposed 
that three of those men should always be, not only 
out of danger, but attached firmly to the rocks ; and 
while they were thus secure, it was thought that 
the remaining two might take liberties, and commit 
themselves to ventures which would otherwise be 
inexcusable or impossible. With a view to this, I 
had a rope specially manufactured in London, and 
guaranteed by its maker to bear a far greater strain 
than was ever likely to be thrown upon it. A light 
ladder was also constructed, the two sides of which 
might be carried like huge alpenstocks, while its 


steps, which could be inserted at any moment, were 
strapped upon a porter's back. Long iron nails and 
a hammer were also among our appliances. Actual 
experience considerably modified these arrangements, 
and compelled us in almost all cases to resort to 
methods as much open to a savage as to people 
acquainted with the mechanical arts. 

Throughout the latter half of July rumours from 
the Matterhorn were rife in the Bernese Oberland, 
and I felt an extreme dislike to add to the gossip. 
Wishing, moreover, that others who desired it 
might have a fair trial, I lingered for nearly three 
weeks among the Bernese and Valasian Alps. This 
time, however, was not wasted. It was employed in 
burning up the effete matters which nine months' 
work in London had lodged in my muscles — in 
rescuing the blood from that fatty degeneration 
which a sedentary life is calculated to induce. I 
chose instead of the air of a laboratory that of the 
Wetterhorn, the Gralenstock, and the mountains 
which surround the Great Aletsch glacier. Each 
succeeding day added to my strength. 

There is assuredly morality in the oxygen of the 
mountains, as there is immorality in the miasma 
of a marsh, and a higher power than mere brute 
force lies latent in Alpine mutton. We are re- 
cognising more and more the influence of physical 
elements in the conduct of life, for when the blood 

156 noons of exercise in the ali»s. [186S 

flows in a purer current the heart is capable of 
a higher glow. Spirit and matter are interfused ; 
the Alps improve us totally ', and we return from 
their precipices wiser as well as stronger men. 

It is usual for the proprietor of the hotel on the 
^Eggischhorn to retain a guide for excursions in the 
neighbourhood ; and last year he happened to have 
in his employment one Walters, a man of superior 
strength and energy. He was the house companion 
of Bennen, who was loud in his praise. Thinking 
it would strengthen Bennen, hand and heart, to 
have so tried a man beside him, I engaged Walters, 
and we all three set off with cheerful spirits to 
Zermatt. Thence we proceeded over the Matter- 
joch ; and as we descended to Breuil we looked 
long at the dangerous eminences to our right, 
among which we were to trust ourselves in a day or 
two. There was nothing jubilant in our thoughts 
or conversation ; the character of the work before 
us quelled presumption. We felt nothing that 
could be called confidence as to the issue of the 
enterprise, but we also felt the inner compactness 
and determination of men who, though they know 
their work to be difficult, feel no disposition to 
shrink from it. The Matterhorn, in fact, was our 
temple, and we aproached it with feelings not un- 
worthy of so great a shrine. Arrived at Breuil, we 
found that a gentleman, whose long perseverance 


merited victory (and who has since gained it), 1 was 
then upon the mountain. The succeeding day was 
spent in scanning the crags and in making prepara- 
tions. At night Mr. Whymper returned from the 
Matterhorn, having left his tent upon the rocks. In 
the frankest spirit, he placed it at my disposal, and 
thus relieved me from the necessity of carrying up 
my own. At Breuil I engaged two porters, both 
named Carrel, the youngest of whom was the son 
of the Carrel who accompanied Mr. Hawkins and 
me in 1860, while the other was old Carrel's nephew. 
He had served as a bersaglier in three campaigns, 
and had fought at the battle of Solferino ; his 
previous habits of life rendered him an extremely 
handy and useful companion, and his climbing 
powers proved also very superior. 

About noon on an August day we disentangled 
ourselves from the hotel, first slowly sauntering 
along a small green valley, but soon meeting the 
bluffs, which indicated our approach to uplifted 
land. The bright grass was quickly left behind, and 
soon afterwards we were toiling laboriously upward 
among the rocks. The Val Tournanche is bounded 
on the right by a chain of mountains, the higher 
end of which abutted, in former ages, against 
Matterhorn. But now a gap is cut out between 
both, and a saddle stretches from the one to the 

1 Mr. Whymper. 

158 nouns of exercise in the alps. [1862 

other. From this saddle a kind of couloir runs 
downwards, widening out gradually and blending 
with the gentler slopes below. We held on to the 
rocks to the left of this couloir, until we reached the 
base of a precipice which fell sheer from the summits 
above. Water trickled from the upper ledges, and 
the descent of a stone at intervals admonished us 
that gravity had here more serious missiles at 
command than the drippings of the liquefied snow, 
So we moved with prudent speed along the base of 
the precipice, crossing at one place the ice-gulley 
where Mr. Whymper nearly lost his life. Imme- 
diately afterwards we found ourselves upon the 
saddle which stretches with the curvature of a chain 
to the base of the true Matterhorn. The opening 
out of the western mountains from this point of 
view is grand and impressive, and with our eyes and 
hearts full of the scene we moved along the saddle, 
and soon came to rest upon the first steep crags oi 
the real Monarch of the Alps. 

Here we paused, unlocked our scrip, and had some 
bread and wine. Again and again we looked to the 
cliffs above us, ignorant of the treatment that we 
were to receive at their hands. We had gathered 
up our traps, and bent to the work before us, when 
suddenly an explosion occurred overhead. We 
looked aloft and saw in mid-air a solid shot from 
the Matterhorn, describing its proper parabola, and 


finally splitting* into fragments as it smote one of 
the rocky towers in front of us. Down the scattered 
fragments came like a kind of spray, slightly wide 
of us, but still near enough to compel a sharp look- 
out. Two or three such explosions occurred, but we 
chose the back-fin of the mountain for our track, 
and from this the falling stones were speedily 
deflected right or left. Before the set of sun we 
reached our place of bivouac. A roomy tent was 
already there, and we had brought with us an 
additional light one, intended to afford accom- 
modation to me. It was pitched in the shadow of 
a great rock, which seemed to offer a safe barrier 
against the cannonade from the heights. Carrel, 
the soldier, built a platform, on which he placed the 
tent, for the mountain itself furnished no level 
space of sufficient area. 

Meanwhile, fog, that enemy of the climber, came 
creeping up the valleys, while dense flounces of 
cloud gathered round the hills. As night drew 
near, the fog thickened through a series of inter- 
mittences which a mountain-land alone can show. 
Sudden uprushings of air would often carry the 
clouds aloft in vertical currents, while horizontal 
gusts swept them wildly to and fro. Different 
currents impinging upon each other sometimes 
formed whirling cyclones of cloud. The air was 
tortured in its search of equilibrium. Sometimes 


all sight of the lower world was cut away — then 
again the fog would melt and show us the sunny 
pastures of Breuil smiling far beneath. Sudden 
peals upon the heights, succeeded by the sound of 
tumbling rocks, announced, from time to time, the 
disintegration of the Matterhorn. We were quite 
swathed in fog when we retired to rest, and had 
scarcely a hope that the morrow's sun would be able 
to dispel the gloom. Throughout the night the 
rocks roared intermittently, as they swept down the 
adjacent couloir. I opened my eyes at midnight, 
and, through a minute hole in the canvas of my 
tent, saw a star. I rose and found the heavens swept 
clear of clouds, while above me the solemn battle- 
ments of the Matterhorn were projected against the 
blackened sky. 

At 2 a.m. we were astir. Carrel made the fire, 
boiled the water, and prepared our coffee. It was 
4 a.m. before we had fairly started. We adhered as 
long as possible to the hacked and weather-worn 
spine of the mountain, until at length its disinte- 
gration became too vast. The alternations of sun 
and frost have made wondrous havoc on the southern 
face of the Matterhorn ; but they have left brown- 
red masses of the most imposing magnitude behind — 
pillars, and towers, and splintered obelisks, grand in 
their hoariness — savage, but still softened by the 
colouring of age. The mountain is a gigantic ruin • 


bur its firmer masonry will doubtless bear the 
shocks of another aeon. We- were compelled to 
quit the ridge, which now swept round and fronted 
us like a wall. The weather had cleft the rock 
clean away, leaving* smooth sections, with here and 
there a ledge barely competent to give a man 
footing. It was manifest that for some time our 
fight must be severe. We examined the precipice, 
and exchanged opinions. Bennen swerved to the 
right and to the left to render his inspection com- 
plete. There was no choice ; over this wall we must 
go, or give up the attempt. We reaehed its base, 
roped ourselves together, and were soon upon the 
face of the precipice. Walters was first, and Bennen 
second, both exchanging pushes and pulls. Walters, 
holding on to the narrow ledges above, scraped his 
ironshod boots against the cliff, thus lifting himself 
in part by friction. Bennen was close behind, 
aiding him with an arm, a knee, or a shoulder. 
Once upon a ledge, he was able to give Bennen a 
hand. Thus we advanced, straining, bending, and 
clinging to the rocks with a grasp like that of 
desperation, but with heads perfectly cool. We 
perched upon the ledges in succession — each in the 
rirst place making his leader secure, and accepting 
his help afterwards. A last strong effort threw the 
body of Walters across the top of the wall ; and, ht? 
being safe', our success thus far was ensured. 


This ascent landed us once more upon the ridge, 
with safe footing on .the ledged strata of the disin- 
tegrated gneiss. Pushing upward, we approached 
the conical summit seen from Breuil — the peak, 
however, being the end of a nearly horizontal ridge 
foreshortened from below. But before us, and as- 
suredly as we thought within our grasp, was the 
highest point of the renowned Matterhorn. ' Well,' 
I remarked to Bennen, ' we shall at all events win 
the lower summit.' ' That will not satisfy us,' was 
his reply. I knew he would answer thus, for a 
laugh of elation, which had something of scorn in 
it, had burst from the party when the true summit 
came in view. We felt perfectl} T certain of success ; 
not one amongst us harboured a thought of failure. 
' In an hour,' cried Bennen, ' the people at Zermatt 
shall see our flag planted yonder.' Up we went in 
this spirit, with a forestalled triumph making our 
ascent a jubilee. We reached the first summit, and 
planted a flag upon it. Walters, however, who was 
an exceedingly strong and competent guide, but 
without the genius which is fired by difficulty, had 
previously remarked, with reference to the last pre- 
cipice of the mountain, ' We may still find difficulty 
there.' The same thought had probably brooded in 
other minds ; still it angered me slightly to heal 
misgiving obi am audible expression. 

Krom the point on which we planted our first 


flagstaff a hacked and extremely acute ridge ran, 
and abutted against the final precipice. Along this 
we moved cautiously, while the face of the precipice 
came clearer and clearer into view. The ridge on 
which we stood ran right against it ; it was the only 
means of approach, while ghastly abysses fell on 
either side. We sat down, and inspected the place ; 
no glass was needed, it was so near. Three out of 
the four men muttered almost simultaneously, 'It is 
impossible.' Bennen was the only man of the four 
who did not utter the word. A jagged stretch of 
the ridge still separated us from the precipice. I 
pointed to a spot at some distance from the place 
where we sat, and asked the three doubters whether 
that point might not be reached without much 
danger. ' We think so,' was the reply. ' Then let 
us go there.' We reached the place, and sat down 
there. The men again muttered despairingly, and 
at length they said distinctly, ' We must give it up.* 
I by no means wished to put on pressure, but direct- 
ing their attention to a point at the base of the 
precipice, I asked them whether they could not 
reach that point without much risk. The reply 
was, ' Yes.' ' Then,' I said, ' let us go there.' We 
moved cautiously along, and reached the point 
aimed at. The ridge was here split by a deep cleft 
which separated it from the final precipice. So 
savage a spot I had never seen, and I sat dowa 


upon it with the sickness of disappointed hope. 
The summit was within almost a stone's throw of us, 
and the thought of retreat was bitter in the extreme. 
Bennen excitedly pointed out a track which he 
thought practicable. He spoke of danger, of diffi- 
culty, never of impossibility ; but this was the 
ground taken by the other three men. 

As on other occasions, my guide sought to fix on 
me the responsibility of return, but with the usual 
result. ' Where you go I will follow, be it up or 
down.' It took him half an hour to make up his 
mind. But he was finally forced to accept defeat. 
What could he do ? The other men had yielded 
utterly, and our occupation was clearly gone. Hack- 
ing a length of six feet from one of the sides of 
our ladder, we planted it on the spot where we 
stopped. It was firmly fixed, and, protected as 
it is from lightning by the adjacent peak, it will 
probably stand there when those who planted it 
think no more of the Matterhorn. 

How this wondrous mountain has been formed 
will be the subject of subsequent enquiry. It is 
not a spurt of molten matter ejected from the 
uucleus of the earth ; from base to summit there is 
no truly igneous rock. It has no doubt been up- 
raised by subterranean forces, but that it has been 
lifted as an isolated mass is not conceivable. It 
must have formed part of a mighty boss or swelling., 


from which the mountain was subsequently sculp- 
tured. These subjects, however, cannot be well 
discussed here. To get down the precipice we had 
scaled in the morning, we had to fix the remaining 
length of our ladder at the top, to tie our rope 
firmly on to it, and allow it to hang down the cliff. 
We slid down it in succession, and there it still 
dangles, for we could not detach it. A tempest of 
hail was here hurled against us ; as if the Matter- 
horn, not content with shutting its door in our faces, 
meant to add an equivalent to the process of kicking 
us downstairs. The ice-pellets certainly hit us as 
bitterly as if they had been thrown in spite, and in 
the midst of this malicious cannonade we struck 
our tents and returned to Breuil. 

[Three years subsequently, Carrel the bersaglier, 
and some other Val Tournanche men, reached my 
rope, found it bleached to whiteness, but still 
strong enough to bear the united weights of three 
men. By it they were enabled to scale the preci- 
pice, spend the night at a considerable elevation, 
and, through the scrutiny rendered possible by an 
early start, to find a way to the summit of the 
Matterhorn. They reached the top a day or two 
after the memorable first ascent from Zermatt.] 





On the 19th of July 1863 Mr. Philip Lutley Sclater 
and I reached EeicLenbach, and on the following 
day we sauntered up the valley of Hasli, and over 
the Kirchet to Imhof, where we turned to the left 
into Gradmenthal. Our destination was Stein, which 
we reached by a grass-grown road through fine 
scenery. The goatherds were milking when we 
arrived. At the heels of one quadruped, supported 
by the ordinary uni-legged stool of the Senner, 
bent a particularly wild and dirty-looking indi- 
vidual, who, our guide informed us, was the pro- 
prietor of the inn. i He is but a rough Bauer,' 
said Jaun, 'but he has engaged a pretty maiden 
to keep house for him.' While he thus spoke a 
Light-footed creature glided from the door towards 
us, and bade us welcome. She led us upstairs, 
provided us with baths, took our orders for dinner, 
helped us by her suggestions, and answered all 
our questions with the utmost propriety and 
grace. She had been two years in England, and 


Bpoke English with a particularly winning accent. 
How she came to be associated with the unkempt 
individual outside was a puzzle to both of us. It is 
Emerson, I think, who remarks on the benefit which 
a beautiful face, without trouble to itself, confers 
upon him who looks at it. And, though downright 
beauty could hardly be claimed for our young 
hostess, she was handsome enough and graceful 
enough to brighten a tired traveller's thoughts, and 
to raise by her presence the modest comforts she 
dispensed to the level of luxuries. 1 

It rained all night, and at 3.30 a.m., when we were 
called, it still fell heavily. At 5, however, the 
clouds began to break, and half an hour afterwards 
the heavens were swept quite clear of them. At 6 
we bade our pretty blossom of the Alps good-bye. 
She had previously brought her gentle influence to 
bear upon her master to moderate the extortion of 
some of his charges. We were soon upon the Stein 
glacier, and after some time reached a col from 

1 Thackeray, in his ' Peg of Limavady,' is perhaps more to tho 
point than Emerson: 

' Presently a maid 

Enters with the liquor — 
Half a pint of ale 

Frothing in a beaker ; 
As she came she smiled, 

And the smile bewitching, 
On my word and honour, 

Lighted all the kitchon.' 


which we looked down upon the lowei portion of the 
nobler and more instructive Trift glacier. Brown 
bands were drawn across the ice-stream, forming 
graceful loops with their convexities turned down- 
wards. The higher portions of the glacier were not 
in view ; still those bands rendered the inference 
secure that an ice-fall existed higher up, at the base 
of which the bands had originated. We shot down 
a shingly couloir to the Trift, and looking up the 
glacier the anticipated cascade came into view. At 
its bottom the ice, by pressure, underwent that 
notable change, analogous to slaty cleavage, which 
caused the glacier to weather and gather dirt in 
parallel grooves, thus marking upon its surface the 
direction of its interior lamination. 

The ice-cascade being itself impracticable, we 
scaled the rocks to the left of it, and were soon in 
presence of the far-stretching snow-fields from which 
the lower glacier derives nutriment. With a view 
to hidden crevasses, we here roped ourselves together. 
The sun was strong, its direct and reflected blaze 
combining against us. The scorching warmth ex- 
perienced at times by cheeks, lips, and neck indi- 
cated that in mv case mischief was brewing; ; but the 
eyes being well protected by dark spectacles, I was 
comparatively indifferent to the prospective dis- 
figurement of my face. Mr. Sclater was sheltered by 
a veil, a mode of defence which the habit of gcing 


into places requiring the unimpeded eyesight has 
caused me to neglect. 

There would seem to be some specific quality in 
the sun's rays which produces the irritation of the 
skin experienced in the Alps. The solar heat may 
be compared, in point of quantity, with that radi- 
ated from a furnace ; and the heat encountered by 
the mountaineer on Alpine snows is certainly less 
intense than that endured by workmen in many of 
our technical operations. But the terrestrial heat 
appears to lack the quality which gives the solar 
rays their power. The sun is incomparably richer 
in what are called chemical rays than are our fires, 
and to such rays the irritation may be due. The 
keen air of the heights may also have much to do 
with it. As a remedy for sunburn I have tried 
glycerine, and found it a failure. The ordinary lip- 
salve of the druggists' shops is also worse than 
useless ; but pure cold-cream, for a supply of which 
I have often had occasion to thank a friend, is an 
excellent ameliorative. 

After considerable labour we reached the ridgfe — 
a very glorious one as regards the view — which forms 
the common boundary of the Ehone and Trift 
glaciers. 1 Before us and behind us for many a mile 
fell the dazzling neves, down to the points where the 

1 Seven years previously Mr. Huxley and myself had attempted to 
reach this col from the other side. 


grey ice emerging from its white coverlet declared 
the junction of snow-field and glacier. We had 
plodded on for hours soddened by the solar heat and 
parched with thirst. There was 

Water, water everywhere, 
But not a drop to drink ; 

for, when placed in the mouth, the liquefaction of 
the ice was so slow, and the loss of heat from the 
surrounding tissues so painful, that sucking it was 
worse than total abstinence. In the midst of this 
solid water you might die of thirst. At some dis- 
tance below the col, on the Khone side, the musical 
trickle of water made itself audible, and to the 
rocks from which it fell we repaired, and refreshed 
ourselves. The day was far spent, the region was 
wild and lonely, when, beset by that feeling which 
has often caused me to wander singly in the Alps, I 
broke away from my companions, and went rapidly 
down the glacier. Our guide had previously in- 
formed me that before reaching the cascade of the 
Rhone the ice was to be forsaken, and the Grrimsel, 
our destination, reached by skirting the base of the 
peak called Nagelis Grratli. After descending the 
ice for some time I struck the bounding rocks, and, 
climbing the mountain obliquely, found myself among 
the crags which lie between the Grimsel pass and 
the Rhone glacier. It was an exceedingly desolate 


place, and I soon had reason to doubt the wisdom of 
being there alone. Still difficulty rouses powers of 
which we should otherwise remain unconscious. The 
heat of the day had rendered me weary, but among 
these rocks the weariness vanished, and I became 
clear in mind and fresh in body through the know- 
ledge that after nightfall escape from this wilder- 
ness would be impossible. 

I reached the watershed of the region, where 1 
accepted the guidance of a tiny stream. It received 
in its course various lateral tributaries, and at one 
place expanded into a small blue lake bounded by 
banks of snow. I kept along its side afterwards 
until, arching over a brow of granite, it discharged 
itself down precipitous and glaciated rocks. Here 
I learned that the stream was the feeder of the 
Grimsel lake. I halted on the brow for some time. 
The hospice was in sight, but the precipices between 
it and me seemed desperately forbidding. Nothing 
is more trying to the climber than those cliffs which 
have been polished by the ancient glaciers. Even 
at moderate inclinations, as may be learned from an 
experiment on the Hollenplatte, or some other of 
the polished rocks in Haslithal, they are not easy. 
I need hardly say that the inclination of the rocks 
flanking the Grimsel is the reverse of moderate. 
It is dangerously steep. 

How to get down these smooth and precipitous 


tablets w as now a problem of the utmost interest to 
me ; for the day was too far gone, and I was too ig- 
norant of the locality, to permit of time being spent 
in the search of an easier place of descent. Right 
or left of me I saw none. The continuity of the 
cliffs below me was occasionally broken by cracks 
and narrow ledges, with scanty grass-tufts sprouting 
from them here and there. The problem was to get 
down from crack to crack and from ledge to ledge. 
A salutary anger warms the mind when thus chal- 
lenged, and, aided by this warmth, close scrutiny will 
dissolve difficulties which timidity might render 
insuperable. Bit by bit I found myself getting 
lower, closely examining at every pause the rocks 
below me. The grass-tufts helped me for a time, 
but at length a slab was reached where no friendly 
grass could grow. This slab was succeeded by others 
equally forbidding. I looked upwards, thinking of 
retreat, but the failing day urged me on. From the 
middle of the smooth surface jutted a narrow ledge. 
Grasping the top of the rock, I let myself down as 
far as my stretched arms would permit, and then 
let go my hold. I came upon the ledge with an 
energy that alarmed me. A downward-pointing 
crack with a streak of grass in it was next attained ; 
it terminated in a small, steep gulley, the portion of 
which within view was crossed by three transverse 
ledges, and I judged that by friction the motion 


down the groove could be so regulated as to enable 
me to come to rest at each successive ledge. But 
the rush was unexpectedly rapid, and I shot over 
the first ledge. Having some power in reserve, I 
tried to clamp myself against the rock, but the 
second ledge was crossed like the first. The wish to 
6pare clothes or avoid abrasions of the skin here 
vanished, and for dear life I grappled with the rock. 
Braces gave way, clothes were rent, wrists and hands 
were skinned and bruised, while hips and knees 
suffered variously. The motion however ended. I 
was greatly heated, but immensely relieved otherwise. 
A little lower down I discovered a singular cave in 
the mountain-side, with water dripping from its roof 
into a well of crystal clearness. The ice-cold liquid 
soon restored me to a normal temperature. I felt 
quite fresh on entering the Grimsel inn, but a 
curious physiological effect manifested itself when I 
had occasion to speak. The power of the brain over 
the lips was so lowered that I could hardly make 
myself understood. 





My guide Bennen reached the Grimsel the following 
morning. Uncertain of my own movements, I had 
permitted him this year to make a new engagement, 
which he was now on his way to fulfil. As a moun- 
taineer, Bennen had no superior, and he added to 
his strength, courage, and skill, the qualities of a 
natural gentleman. He was now ready to bear us 
company over the Oberaarjoch to the iEggischhorn. 
On the morning of the 22nd we bade the cheerless 
Grimsel inn good-bye, reached the Unteraar glacier, 
crossed its load of uncomfortable moraine shingle, 
and clambered up the slopes at the other side. 
Nestled aloft in a higher valley was the Oberaar 
glacier, along the unruffled surface of which our 
route lay. 

The morning threatened, and fitful gleams of sun- 
light wandered over the ice. The Joch was swathed 
in mist, which now and then gave way, permitting a 
wild radiance to shoot over the top. On the windy 
summit we took a mouthful of food and* roped our- 

1863] THE 0BERAA1U0CH. 175 

selves together. Here, as in a hundred other places, 
I sought in the fog for the vesicles of De Saussure, 
but failed to find them. Bennen, as long as we were 
on the Berne side of the col, permitted Jaun to take 
the lead ; but now we looked into Wallis, or rather 
into the fog which filled it, and he, as Wallis guide, 
came to the front. I knew the Viesch glacier well, 
but how Bennen meant to unravel its difficulties 
without landmarks I knew not. I asked him whether, 
if the fog continued, he could make his way down 
the glacier. There was a pleasant timbre in Bennen's 
voice, a light and depth in his smile, due to the 
blending together of conscious strength and warm 
affection. With this smile he turned round and 
said, ' Herr, ich bin hier zu Hause. Der Viescher 
Gletscher ist meine Heimath.' 

Downwards we went, striking the rocks of the 
Eothhorn so as to avoid the riven ice. Suddenly we 
passed from dense fog into clear air : we had crossed 
' the cloud-plane,' and found a transparent atmo- 
sphere between it and the glacier. The dense 
covering above us was sometimes torn asunder by 
the wind, which whirled the detached cloud-tufts 
round the peaks. Contending air-currents were thus 
revealed, and thunder, which is the common asso- 
ciate, if not the product, of such contention, began 
to rattle among the crags. At first the snow upon 
the glacier was sufficiently heavy to bridge the 
crevasses, thus permitting of rapid motion ; but by 


degrees the fissures opened, and at length drove us 
to the rocks. These in their turn became imprac- 
ticable. Dropping down a waterfall well known to 
the climbers of this region, we came again upon the 
ice, which was here cut by complex chasms. These 
we unravelled as long as necessary, and finally es- 
caped from them to the mountain-side. The first 
big drops of a thunder-shower were already falling 
when we reached an overhanging crag which gave us 
shelter. We quitted it too soon, beguiled by a 
treacherous gleam of blue, and were thoroughly 
drenched before we reached the iEggischhorn. 

This was my last excursion with Bennen. In the 
month of February of the following year he was 
killed by an avalanche on the Haut de Cry, a 
mountain near Sion. 1 

Having work to execute, I remained at the 
iEggischhorn for nearly a month in 1863. My 
favourite place for rest and writing was a point on 
the mountain-side about an hour westwards from the 
hotel, where the mighty group of the Mischabel, the 
Matterhorn, and the Weisshorn were in full view. 
One day I remained in this position longer than 
usual, held by the fascination of the setting sun. 

1 Bennen's death is described in Chapter XVIII. A liberal col- 
lection was made in England for his mother and sisters ; and Mr. 
Hawkins, Mr. Tuckett, and myself had a small monument erected 
to his memory in Ernan churchyard. The supervision of the work 
was entrusted to a clerical friend of Bennen's, who made but a 
poor use of his truoC. 


The mountains had stood out nobly clear during the 
entire day, but towards evening, upon the Dom, a 
singular cloud settled, which was finally drawn into 
a long streamer by the wind. Nothing can be finer 
than the effect of the red light of sunset on those 
streamers of cloud. Incessantly dissipated, but ever 
renewed, they glow with the intensity of flames. By- 
and-by the banner broke, resembling in its action 
that of a liquid cylinder when unduly stretched, 
forming a series of crimson cloud-balls which were 
united by slender filaments of fire. I waited for this 
glory to fade into a deadly pallor before I thought 
of returning to the hotel. 

On arriving there I found discussed with eager 
interest the fate of two ladies and a gentleman, who 
had quitted the hotel in the morning without a guide, 
and who were now, it was said, lost on the mountain. 
' I recommended them,' said Herr Wellig, the land- 
lord, ' to take a guide, but they would not heed me.' 
I asked him what force he had at hand. Three 
active young fellows came immediately forward. 
Two of them I sent across the mountain by the 
usual route to the Marjelin See, and the third I 
took with myself along the watercourse of the 
iEggischhorn. After some walking we dipped into 
a little dell, where the glucking of cowbells an- 
nounced the existence of chalets. The party had 
been seen passing there in the morning, but not 


returning. The embankment of the watercourse 
fell at some places vertically for twenty or thirty 
feet. Here I thought an awkward slip might have 
occurred, and, to meet the possibility of having to 
carry a wounded man, I took an additional lithe 
young fellow from the chalet. 

We shouted as we went along, but the echoes were 
our only response. Our pace was rapid, and in the 
dubious light false steps were frequent. We all at 
intervals mistook the grey water for the grey and 
narrow track beside it, and stepped into the stream. 
We proposed ascending to the chalets of Marjelin, 
but previous to quitting the watercourse we halted, 
and, directing our voices down hill, shouted a last 
shout. And faintly up the mountain came a sound 
which could not be an echo. We all heard it, though 
it could hardly be detached from the murmur of the 
adjacent stream. We went rapidly down the Alp, 
and after a little time shouted again. More audible 
than before, but still very faint, came tne answer 
from below. We continued at a headlong pace, and 
soon assured ourselves that the sound was not only 
that of a human voice, but of an English voice. 
Thus stimulated, we swerved to the left, and, re- 
gardless of a wetting, dashed through the torrent 
which tumbles from the Marjelin See. Close to the 
Viesch glacier we found the objects of our search — 
the two ladies, tired out, seated upon the threshold 


of a forsaken chalet, and the gentleman seated on a 
rock beside them. 

He was both an experienced climber and a bravo 
man, but he had started with a sprained ankle, and 
every visitor knows how bewildering the spurs of 
the iEggischhorn are, even to those whose tendons 
are sound. Thus weakened, he was overtaken by 
the night, lost his way, and, in his efforts to 
extricate himself, had experienced one or two 
serious tumbles. Finally, giving up the attempt, 
he had resigned himself to spending the night 
where we found him. The ladies were quite tired 
out, and to reach the iEggischhorn that night was 
out of the question. I tried the chalet door and 
found it locked, but an ice-axe soon hewed the bolt 
away, and forced an entrance. There was some 
pinewood within, and some old hay, which, under 
the circumstances, formed a delicious couch for the 
ladies. In a few minutes a fire was blazing and 
crackling in the chimney corner. Having thus 
secured them, I returned to the chalets first passed, 
sent them bread, butter, cheese, and milk, and had 
the lively gratification of seeing them return safe 
and sound to the hotel next morning. 




I had spent nearly a fortnight at the iEggischhorn 
in 1863, employing alternate days in wandering and 
musing over the green Alps, and in more vigorous 
action upon the Aletsch glacier. Day after day a 
blue skj spanned the earth, and night after night 
the stars glanced down from an unclouded heaven. 
There is no nobler mountain group in Switzerland 
than that seen on a fine day from the middle of the 
Aletsch glacier looking southwards ; while to the 
north, and more close at hand, rise the Jungfrau 
and other summits familiar to every tourist who 
has crossed the Wengern Alp. The love of being 
alone amid those scenes caused me, on the 3rd of 
August, to withdraw from all society, and ascend 
the glacier, which for nearly two hours was almost 
as even as a highway, no local danger calling away 
the attention from the near and distant moun- 
tains. The ice yielded to the sun, rills were 
formed, which united to rivulets, and these again 
coalesced to rapid brooks, which ran with a pleasant 


music through deep channels cut in the ice. Sooner 
or later these brooks were crossed by cracks ; into 
these cracks the water fell, scooping gradually out 
for itself a vertical shaft, the resonance of which 
raised the sound of the falling water to the dignity 
of thunder. These shafts constitute the so-called 
moulins of the glacier, examples of which are shown 
upon the Mer de Glace to every tourist who visits 
the Jardin from Chamouni. The moulins can only 
form where the glacier is not much riven, as here 
alone the rivulets can acquire the requisite volume 
to produce a moulin. 

After two hours' ascent, the ice began to wear a 
more hostile aspect, and long stripes of last year's 
snow drawn over the sullied surface marked the 
lines of crevasses now partially filled and bridged 
over. For a time this snow was consolidated, and 
I crossed numbers of the chasms, sounding in each 
case before trusting myself to its tenacity. But as 
I ascended, the width and depth of the fissures 
increased, and the fragility of the snow-bridges 
became more conspicuous. The crevasses yawned 
here and there with threatening gloom, while along 
their fringes the crystallising power of water 
played the most fantastic freaks. Long lines of 
icicles dipped into the darkness, and at some places 
the liquefied snow had refrozen into clusters of 
plates, ribbed and serrated like the leaves of ferns. 



The cases in which the snow covering of the cre- 
vasses, when tested by the axe, yielded, became 
gradually more numerous, demanding commensurate 
caution. It is impossible to feel otherwise than 
earnest in such scenes as this, with the noblest and 
most beautiful objects in nature around one, with 
the sense of danger raising the feelings at times to 
the level of awe. 

My way upwards became more and more difficult, 
and circuit after circuit had to be made to round 
the gaping fissures. There is a passive cruelty in 
the aspect of these chasms sufficient to make the 
blood run cold. Among them it is not good for 
man to be alone, so I halted in the midst of them 
and swerved back towards the Faulberg. But instead 
of it I struck the lateral tributary of the Aletsch, 
which runs up to the Grriinhorn Liicke. In this 
passage I was more than once entangled in a mesh 
of fissures , but it is marvellous what steady, cool 
scrutiny can accomplish upon the ice, and how often 
difficulties of apparently the gravest kind may be 
reduced to a simple form by skilful examination. 
I tried to get along the rocks to the Faulberg, but 
after investing half an hour in the attempt I thought 
it prudent to retreat. I finally reached the Faul- 
berg by the glacier, and with great comfort consumed 
my bread and cheese and emptied my goblet in the 
shadow of its caves. On this day it was my des 4 re 


to get near the buttresses of the Jungfrau, and to 
see what prospect of success a lonely climber would 
have in an attempt upon the mountain. Such an 
attempt might doubtless be made, but at a risk 
which no sane man would willingly incur. 

On August 6, however, I had the pleasure of 
joining Dr. Hornby and Mr. Philpotts, who, with 
Christian Aimer and Christian Lauener for their 
guides, wished to ascend the Jungfrau. We quitted 
the iEggischhorn at 2.15 p.m., and in less than four 
hours reached the grottoes of the Faulberg. A 
pine fire was soon blazing, a pan of water soon 
bubbling sociably over the flame, and the evening 
meal was quickly prepared and disposed of. For a 
time the air behind the Jungfrau and Monk was 
exceedingly dark and threatening ; rain was stream- 
ing down upon Lauterbrunnen, and the skirt of the 
storm wrapped the summits of the Jungfrau and the 
Monk. Southward, however, the sky was clear, and 
there were such general evidences of hope that we 
were not much disheartened by the local burst of 
ill-temper displayed by the atmosphere to the 
north of us. Like a gust of passion the clouds 
cleared away, and before we went to rest all was 
sensibly clear. Still the air was not transparent, 
and for a time the stars twinkled through it with 
a feeble ray. There was no visible turbidity, but a 
6omething which cut off half the stellar brilliancy 


The starlight, however, became gradually stronger, 
not on account of the augmenting darkness, but be- 
cause the air became clarified as the night advanced. 

Two of our party occupied the upper cave, and the 
guides took possession of the kitchen, while a third 
lay in the little grot below. Hips and ribs felt 
throughout the night the pressure of the subjacent 
rock. A single blanket, moreover, though sufficient 
to keep out the pain of cold, was insufficient to 
induce the comfort of warmth ; so I lay awake in a 
neutral condition, neither happy nor unhappy, watch- 
ing the stars without emotion as they appeared in 
succession above the mountain-heads. 

At half-past 12 a rumbling in the kitchen showed 
the guides to be alert, and soon afterwards Christian 
Aimer announced that tea was prepared. We rose, 
consumed a crust and basin each, and at 1.15 a.m., 
being perfectly harnessed, we dropped down upon 
the glacier. The crescent moon was in the sky, 
but for a long time we had to walk in the shadow 
of the mountains, and therefore required illumina- 
tion. The bottoms were knocked out of two empty 
bottles, and each of these, inverted, formed a kind 
of lantern which protected from the wind a candle 
stuck in the neck. Aimer went first, holding his 
lantern in his left hand and his axe in the right, 
moving cautiously along the snow which, as the 
residue of the spring avalanches, fringed the glacier. 


At times, for no apparent reason, the leader paused 
and struck his ice-axe into the snow. Looking 
right or left, a chasm was always discovered in 
these cases, and the cautious guide sounded the 
snow, lest the fissure should have prolonged itself 
underneath so as to cross our track. A tributary 
glacier joined the Aletsch from our right — a long 
corridor filled with ice, and covered by the purest 
snow. Down this valley the moonlight streamed, 
silvering the surface upon which it fell. 

Here we cast our lamps away, and roped ourselves 
together. To our left a second long ice-corridor 
stretched up to the Lotsch saddle, which hung like 
a chain between the opposing mountains. In fact, 
at this point four noble ice-streams form a junction, 
and flow afterwards in the common channel of the 
Great Aletsch glacier. Perfect stillness might have 
been expected to reign upon the ice, but even at 
that early hour the gurgle of subglacial water 
made itself heard, and we had to be cautious in 
some places lest a too thin crust might let us in. 
We went straight up the glacier, towards the col 
which links the Monk and Jungfrau together. The 
surface was hard, and we went rapidly and silently 
over the snow. There is an earnestness of feeling on 
6uch occasions which subdues the desire for conversa- 
tion. The communion we held was with the solemn 
mountains and their background of dark blue sky. 


'Der Tag bricht ! ' exclaimed one of the men. I 
looked towards the eastern heaven, but could dis- 
cover no illumination which hinted at the approach 
of day. At length the dawn really appeared, 
brightening the blue of the eastern firmament ; 
at first it was a mere augmentation of cold 
light, but by degrees it assumed a warmer tint. 
The long uniform incline of the glacier being 
passed, we reached the first eminences of snow 
which heave like waves around the base of the 
Jungfrau. This is the region of beauty in the 
higher Alps — beauty pure and tender, out of which 
emerges the savage scenery of the peaks. For the 
healthy and the pure in heart these higher snow- 
fields are consecrated ground. 

The snow bosses were soon broken by chasms 
deep and dark, which required tortuous winding on 
our part to get round them. Having surmounted a 
steep slope, we passed to some red and rotten rocks, 
which required care on the part of those in front to 
prevent the loose and slippery shingle from falling 
upon those behind. We gained the ridge and 
wound along it. High snow eminences now flanked 
us to the left, and along the slope over which we 
passed the seracs had shaken their frozen boul- 
ders. We tramped amid the knolls of the fallen 
avalanches towards a white wall which, so far as we 
could see, barred further progress. To our right 


were noble chasms, blue and profound, torn into the 
heart of the neve by the slow but resistless drag of 
gravity on the descending snows. Meanwhile the 
dawn had brightened into perfect day, and over 
mountains and glaciers the gold and purple light 
of the eastern heaven was liberally poured. We 
had already caught sight of the peak of the 
Jungfrau, rising behind an eminence and piercing 
fur fifty feet or so the rosy dawn. And many 
another peak of stately altitude caught the blush, 
while the shaded slopes were all of a beautiful azure, 
being illuminated by the firmament alone. A large 
segment of space enclosed between the Monk and 
Trugberg was filled like a reservoir with purple 
light. The world, in fact, seemed to worship, and 
the flush of adoration was on every mountain-head. 

Over the distant Italian Alps rose clouds of the 
most fantastic forms, jutting forth into the heavens 
like enormous trees, thrusting out umbrageous 
branches which bloomed and glistened in the solar 
rays. Along the whole southern heaven these fan- 
tastic masses were ranged close together, but still 
perfectly isolated, until on reaching a certain altitude 
they seemed to meet a region of wind which blew 
their tops like streamers far away through the air. 
Warmed and tinted by the morning sun those unsub- 
stantial masses rivalled in grandeur the mountains 


The final peak of the Jungfrau is now before us, 
and apparently so near ! But the mountaineer 
alone knows how delusive the impression of nearness 
often is in the Alps. To reach the slope which led 
up to the peak we must scale or round the barrier 
already spoken of. From the coping and the ledges 
of this beautiful wall hung long stalactites of ice, 
in some cases like inverted spears, with their sharp 
points free in air. In other cases, the icicles which 
descended from the overhanging top reached a 
projecting lower ledge, and stretched like a crystal 
railing from the one to the other. To the right of 
this barrier was a narrow gangway, from which the 
snow had not yet broken away so as to form a 
vertical or overhanging wall. It was one of those 
accidents which the mountains seldom fail to fur- 
nish, and on the existence of which the success of the 
climber entirely depends. Up this steep and narrow 
gangway we cut our steps, and a few minutes placed 
us safely at the bottom of the final pyramid of the 

From this point we could look down into the 
abyss of the Roththal, and certainly its wild environs 
seemed to justify the uses to which superstition 
has assigned the place. For here it is said the 
original demons of the mountains hold their orgies, 
and hither the spirits of the doubly-damned among 
men are sent to bear them company. The slope up 


which we had now to climb was turned towards the 
sun ; its aspect was a southern one, and its snows 
had been melted and recongealed to hard ice. The 
axe of Aimer rung" against the obdurate solid, and 
its fragments whirred past us with a weird-like 
sound to the abysses below. They suggested the 
fate which a false step might bring along with it. 
It is a practical tribute to the strength and skill of 
the Oberland guides that no disaster has hitherto 
occurred upon the peak of the Jungfrau. 

The work upon this final ice-slope was long and 
heavy, and during this time the summit appeared 
to maintain its distance above us. We at length 
cleared the ice, and gained a stretch of snow which 
enabled us to treble our upward speed. Thence to 
some loose and shingly rocks, again to the snow, 
whence a sharp edge led directly up to the top. 
The exhilaration of success was here added to that 
derived from physical nature. On the top fluttered 
a little black flag, planted by our most recent 
predecessors. We reached it at 7.15 a.m., having 
accomplished the ascent from the Faulberg in six 
hours. The snow was flattened on either side of 
the apex so as to enable us all to stand upon it, 
and here we stood for some time, with all the 
magnificence of the Alps unrolled before us. 

We may look upon those mountains again and 
again from a dozen different points of view, a 


perennial glory surrounds them which associates with 
every new prospect fresh impressions. I thought 
I had scarcely ever seen the Alps to greater advan- 
tage. Hardly ever was their majesty more fully 
revealed or more overpowering. The colouring of 
the air contributed as much to the effect as the 
grandeur of the masses on which that colouring fell. 
A calm splendour overspread the mountains, soften- 
ing the harshness of the outlines without detracting 
from their strength. But half the interest of such 
scenes is psychological ; the soul takes the tint of sur- 
rounding nature, and in its turn becomes majestic. 

And as I looked over this wondrous scene towards 
Mont Blanc, the Grand Combin, the Dent Blanche, 
the Weisshorn, the Dom, and the thousand lesser 
peaks which seemed to join in celebration of the 
risen day, I asked myself, as on previous occasions : 
How was this colossal work performed? Who 
chiselled these mighty and picturesque masses out of 
a mere protuberance of the earth ? And the answer 
was at hand. Ever young, ever mighty — with the 
vigour of a thousand worlds still within him — the 
real sculptor was even then climbing up the eastern 
sky. It was he who raised aloft the waters which 
cut out these ravines ; it was he who planted the 
glaciers on the mountain-slopes, thus giving gravity 
a plough to open out the valleys ; and it is he who, 
acting through the ages, will finally lay low these 


mighty monuments, rolling them gradually sea- 
ward — 

Sowing the seeds of continents to be ; 

so that the people of an older earth may see mould 
spread and corn wave over the hidden rocks which 
at this moment bear the weight of the Jungfrau.' 

1 Eight years ago I was evidently a sun-worshipper ; nor have I 
yet lost the conviction of his ability to do all here awribod to h'm.— 





[On a March morning in 1864 I was returning to town 
from Chislehurst, when my attention was directed to an 
account of an Alpine disaster published in that day's 
' Times.' No names were mentioned, and I commented 
rather severely on the rashness of trusting to mountain- 
snow so early in the year. On the following day I learned 
that my brave Bennen was one of the victims. Mr. P. C. 
Gossett wrote for the ' Alpine Journal ' a ' Narrative of the 
Accident,' which, through the obliging kindness of the 
author, I am enabled to publish here. Mr. Gossett was 
accompanied by his friend M. Boissonnet on the fatal day.] 

On February 28, 1864, we left Sion with Bennen to 
mount the Haut de Cry. We started at 2.15 a.m. 
in a light carriage that brought us to the village of 
Ardon, distant six miles. We there met three men 
that were to accompany us as local guides and 
porters — Jean Joseph Nance, Frederic Kebot, who 

1864] DEATH OF BENNEN. 193 

acted as my personal guide, and Auguste Bevard. 
We at once began to ascend on the right bank of 
the Lyzerne. The night was splendid, the sky 
cloudless, and the moon shining brightly. For 
about half an hour we went up through the vine- 
yards by a rather steep path, and then entered the 
valley of the Lyzerne, about 700 feet above the 
torrent. We here found a remarkably good path, 
gradually rising and leading towards the Col de 
Cheville. Having followed this path for about 
three hours, we struck off to the left, and began 
zigzagging up the mountain-side through a pine 
forest. We had passed what may be called the snow- 
line in winter a little above 2,000 feet. We had not 
ascended for more than a quarter of an hour in this 
pine forest before the snow got very deep and very 
soft. W r e had to change leader every five or six 
minutes, and even thus our progress was remarkably 
slow. We saw clearly that, should the snow be as 
soft above the fir region, we should have to give up 
the ascent. At 7 a.m. we reached a chalet, and 
stopped for about twenty minutes to rest and look 
at the sunrise on the Diablerets. On observing an 
aneroid, which we had brought with us, we found 
that we were at the height of about 7,000 feet : the 
temperature was — 1° C. 

The Haut de Cry has four aretes, the first running 
towards the W., the second SE., the third E., and 


tne fourth NE. We were between the two last- 
named aretes. Our plan was to go up between them 
to the foot of the peak, and mount it by the arete 
running NE. As we had expected, the snow was in 
much better state when once we were above the 
woods. For some time we advanced pretty rapidly. 
The peak was glistening before us, and the idea of 
success put us in high spirits. Our good fortune did 
not last long ; we soon came to snow frozen on the 
surface, and capable of bearing for a few steps and 
then giving way. But this was nothing compared to 
the trouble of pulling up through the pine wood, so 
instead of making us grumble it only excited our 
hilarity. Bennen was in a particularly good humour, 
and laughed aloud at our combined efforts to get out 
of the holes we every now and then made in the snow. 
Judging from appearances, the snow-field over which 
we were walking covered a gradually rising Alp. 
We made a second observation with our aneroid, and 
found, rather to our astonishment and dismay, that 
we had only risen 1,000 feet in the last three hours. 
It was 10 o'clock: we were at the height of about 
8,000 feet; temperature = —1*5 C. During the 
last half-hour we had' found a little hard snow, so 
we had all hope of success. Thinking we might 
advance better on the arete, we took to it, and rose 
along it for some time. It soon became cut up by 
rocks, so we took to the snow again. It turned out 

.864] DEATH OF BENNEN. J 95 

to be here hard frozen, so that we reached the 
real foot of the peak without the slightest difficulty. 
It was steeper than I had expected it would be, 
judging from the valley of the Rhone. Bennen 
looked at it with decided pleasure ; having completed 
his survey, he proposed to take the eastern arete, as 
in doing so we should gain at least two hours. Rebot 
had been over this last-named arete in summer, and 
was of Bennen's opinion. Two or three of the party 
did not like the idea much, so there was a discussion 
on the probable advantages and disadvantages of 
the NE. and E. aretes. We were losing time ; so 
Bennen cut matters short by saying : ' Ich will der 
Erste uber die arete ! ' Thus saying, he made for 
the E. arete ; it looked very narrow, and, what was 
worse, it was considerably cut up by high rocks, the 
intervals between the teeth of the arete being filled 
up with snow. To gain this arete, we had to go up 
a steep snow-field, about 800 feet high, as well as I 
remember. It was about 150 feet broad at the top, 
and 400 or 500 at the bottom. It was a sort of 
couloir on a large scale. During the ascent we sank 
about one foot deep at every step. Bennen did not 
seem to like the look of the snow very much. He 
asked the local guides whether avalanches ever came 
down this couloir, to which they answered that our 
position was perfectly safe. We had mounted on the 
northern side of the couloir, and having arrived at 


150 feet from the top, we began crossing it on a 
horizontal curve, so as to gain the E. arete. The 
inflexion or dip of the couloir was slight, not above 
25 feet, the inclination near 35°. We were walking 
in the following order : Bevard, Nance, Bennen, 
myself, Boissonnet, and Rebot. Having crossed over 
about three-quarters of the breadth of the couloir, 
the two leading men suddenly sank considerably 
above their waists. Bennen tightened the rope. 
The snow was too deep to think of getting out of the 
hole they had made, so they advanced one or two 
steps, dividing the snow with their bodies. Bennen 
turned round and told us he was afraid of starting 
an avalanche ; we asked whether it would not be 
better to return and cross the couloir higher up. 
To this the three Ardon men opposed themselves ; 
they mistook the proposed precaution for fear, and 
the two leading men continued their work. After 
three or four steps gained in the aforesaid manner, 
the snow became hard again. Bennen had not 
moved — he was evidently undecided what he should 
do ; as soon, however, as he saw hard snow again, he 
advanced and crossed parallel to, but above, the fur- 
row the Ardon men had made. Strange to say, the 
snow supported him. While he was passing I observed 
that the leader, Bevard, had about twenty feet of 
rope coiled round his shoulder. I of course at once 
told him to uncoil it and get on the arete, from which 

186i] DEATH OF BENNEN. 197 

he was not more than fifteen feet distant. Bennen 
then told me to follow. I tried his steps, but sank 
up to m} r waist in the very first. So I went through 
the furrows, holding my elbows close to my body, so 
as not to touch the sides. This furrow was about 
twelve feet long, and, as the snow was good on the 
other side, we had all come to the false conclusion 
that the snow was accidentally softer there than else- 
where. Boissonet then advanced ; he had made but 
a few steps when we heard a deep, cutting sound, 
The snow-field split in two about fourteen or fifteen 
feet above us. The cleft was at first quite narrow, 
not more than an inch broad. An awful silence 
ensued ; it lasted but a few seconds, and then it was 
broken by Bennen's voice, ' Wir sind alle verloren.' 
His words were slow and solemn, and those who 
knew him felt what they really meant when spoken 
by such a man as Bennen. They were his last 
words. I drove my alpenstock into the snow, and 
brought the weight of my body to bear on it ; it 
went in to within three inches of the top. I then 
waited. It was an awful moment of suspense. 
I turned my head towards Bennen to see whether 
he had done the same thing. To my astonishment, 
I saw him turn round, face the valley, and stretch 
out both arms. The ground on which we stood 
began to move slowly, and I felt the utter use- 
lessness of any alpenstock. I soon sank up to mv 


shoulders and began descending backwards. From 
this moment I saw nothing of what had happened 
to the rest of the party. With a good deal of 
trouble I succeeded in turning round. The speed 
of the avalanche increased rapidly, and before long 
I was covered up with snow and in utter darkness. 
I was suffocating, when with a jerk I suddenly came 
to the surface again. The rope had caught most 
probably on a rock, and this was evidently the 
moment when it broke. I was on a wave of the 
avalanche, and saw it before me as I was carried 
down. It was the most awful sight I ever wit- 
nessed. The head of the avalanche was already 
at the spot where we had made our last halt. The 
head alone was preceded by a thick cloud of snow- 
dust ; the rest of the avalanche was clear. Around 
me I heard the horrid hissing of the snow, and far 
before me the thundering of the foremost part of 
the avalanche. To prevent myself sinking again, I 
made use of my arms much in the same way as 
when swimming in a standing position. At last I 
noticed that I was moving slower ; then I saw the 
pieces of snow in front of me stop at some yards' 
distance ; then the snow straight before me stopped, 
and I heard on a large scale the same creaking 
sound that is produced when a heavy cart passes 
over hard-frozen snow in winter. I felt that I also 
had stopped, and instantly threw up both arms to 

1804] DEATH OF BENNEN. J 99 

protect my head in case I should again be covered 
up. I had stopped, but the snow behind me was 
still in motion ; its pressure on my body was so 
strong that I thought I should be crushed to death. 
This tremendous pressure lasted but a short time, 
•and ceased as suddenly as it had begun. I was 
then covered up by snow coming from behind me. 
My first impulse was to try and uncover my head — • 
but this I could not do : the avalanche had frozen by 
pressure the moment it stopped, and I was frozen 
in. Whilst trying vainly to move my arms, I 
suddenly became aware that the hands as far as the 
wrist had the faculty of motion. The conclusion 
was easy, they must be above the snow. I set to 
work as well as I could ; it was time, for I could 
riot have held out much longer. At last I saw a 
faint glimmer of light. The crust above my head 
was getting thinner, and it let a little air pass, 
but I could not reach it any more with my 
hands ; the idea struck me that I might pierce 
it with my breath. After several efforts I suc- 
ceeded in doing so, and felt suddenly a rush of air 
towards my mouth ; I saw the sky again through 
a little round hole. A dead silence reigned around 
me ; I was so surprised to be still alive, and so 
persuaded at the first moment that none of my 
fellow-sufferers had survived, that I did not even 
think of shouting for them. I then made void 


efforts to extricate my arms, but found it im- 
possible ; the most I could do was to join the ends 
of my fingers, but they could not reach the snow 
any longer. After a few minutes I heard a man 
shouting : what a relief it was to know that I was 
not the sole survivor ! to know that perhaps he was 
not frozen in and could come to my assistance ! I 
answered ; the voice approached, but seemed un- 
certain where to go, and yet it was now quite near. 
A sudden exclamation of surprise ! Eebot had seen 
my hands. He cleared my head in an instant, an^ 
was about to try and cut me out completely, when 
I saw a foot above the snow, and so near to me that 
I could touch it with my arms, although they were 
not quite free yet. I at once tried to move the 
foot ; it was my poor friend's. A pang of agony 
shot through me as I saw that the foot did not 
move. Poor Boissonnet had lost sensation, and was 
perhaps already dead. Eebot did his best : after 
some time he wished me to help him, so he freed 
my arms a little more, so that I could make use of 
them. I could do but little, for Rebot had torn the 
axe from my shoulder as soon as he had cleared my 
head (I generally carry an axe separate from my 
alpenstock — the blade tied to the belt, and the 
handle attached to the left shouldei). Before com- 
ing to me Eebot had helped Nance out of the snow ; 
he was lying nearly horizontally, and was not much 



covered over. Nance found Bevard, who was up- 
right in the snow, but covered up to the head. 
After about twenty minutes the two last-named 
guides came up. I was at length taken out ; the 
snow had to be cut with the axe down to my feet 
before I could be pulled out. A few minutes after 
1 o'clock p.m. we came to my poor friend's face. . . . 
I wished the body to be taken out completely, but 
nothing could induce the three guides to work any 
longer, from the moment they saw that it was too 
late to save him. I acknowledge that they were 
nearly as incapable of doing anything as I was. 
When I was taken out of the snow the cord had to 
be cut. We tried the end going towards Bennen, 
but could not move it ; it went nearly straight 
down and showed us that there was the grave of the 
bravest guide the Valais ever had, and ever will 
have. The cold had done its work on us ; we could 
stand it no longer, and began the descent. We 
followed the frozen avalanche for about twenty-five 
minutes, that being the easiest way of progressing, 
and then took the track we had made in the 
morning ; in five hours we reached Ardon. 

I have purposely put apart the details I have been 
asked to give on certain points. 

1 . The avalanche consisted only of snow ; the 
upper stratum was eleven days old. At the moment 
the avalanche started it was about twelve o'clock, 


probably a few minutes before. The temperature 
was then above freezing point, and we were within 
300 or 350 feet from the summit. The snow was 
thawing, and the whole snow-field in a state of uncer- 
tain equilibrium. By cutting through the snow at 
the top of the couloir we cut one of the main points 
by which the snow of the two different layers held 
together ; what led us into the error was, as I have 
before said, the fact that the snow was quite hard in 
some places, and quite soft in others. The avalanche 
may have taken a minute to descend ; I can give no 
correct estimation on this point. We fell between 
1,900 and 1,960 feet, the head of the avalanche 
going 800 feet lower. 

2. The rope was in my opinion the cause of my 
poor friend's as well as of Bennen's death. The 
following facts may prove it : At the moment the 
avalanche started the first and last guides merely 
held the rope ; Bennen had not seen the use of a rope 
at all, so we had been less strict than we should 
otherwise ha ye been in ts use. During the descent 
the rope caught, probably on a rock below the surface. 
This happened between Bennen and Nance, that is 
to say between the second and third man in the 
marching line. Nance told me afterwards that this 
was the worst part of the descent ; he had the pres- 
sure of the snow on his body, whilst the rope nearly 
cut him in two. I believe that it was fit tlia 

1864] DEATH OF BENNEN. 203 

moment thai Bennen and Boissonnet lost their 
upright position, owing to the pressure of snow on 
their backs. Nance also lost his position, but was 
fortunate in being thrown out horizontally, and 
that almost on the surface of the avalanche. I was 
between Bennen and Boissonnet, but not tied to 
the rope, as I had iron rings to my belt through 
which the cord ran. Eebot, who was last in the 
line, was thrown clean out of the avalanche ; he 
was carried during the descent towards one of the 
sides of the stream. He was the only one of us who 
escaped unhurt. Thus, when we stopped in our 
descent, two only were tied to the rope — Boissonnet 
and Bennen — the very two who perished. 

3. The congealing of the snow happened by pres- 
sure. The fore part of the avalanche stopped first, 
and the rest was forced against it. The circumstance 
I can least understand is the sudden fall in the tem- 
perature of the air after the accident. I can give no 
estimate of it, but it was intense. 

4. The bruises Bevard, Nance, and I sustained 
were slight, but our feet were severely frost-bitten. 
Bennen has been accused of rashness in this unfortu- 
nate accident. It is not the case. He was misled 
by the total difference of the state of snow in a winter 
ascent from what is to be met with in summer. 


I ha\e been recently favoured with a letter from 
Mr. Grossett, from which the following is an ex- 
tract : 

'Berne: March 17, 1871. 

6 Bennen's body was found with great difficulty 
the third day after Boissonnet was found. The cord- 
end had been covered up with snow. The cure 
d'Ardon informed me that poor Bennen was found 
eight feet under the snow, in a horizontal position, 
the head facing the valley of the Lyzerne. His 
watch had been wrenched from the chain, probably 
when the cord broke ; the chain, however, remained 
attached to his waistcoat. Three years ago I met 
one of my Ardon guides ; he told me that Bennen's 
watch had been found by a shepherd seven months 
after the accident, . This shepherd had been one of 
the party who went up to look for Bennen ; during 
the following summer he had watched the melting 
of the avalanche. When mounted, the watch 
obeyed. This reminds me of your fall on the 
Morteratsch glacier. 1 

' I know you were very much attached to Bennen ; 
the same was the case with him in regard to you. 
An hour before his death the Matterhorn showed its 
black head over one of the aretes of the Haut de Cry. 
I asked Bennen whether he thought it would ever 
be ascended. His answer was a decided " Yes " ; 

1 See Chapter XIX. 


but he added, alluding to your last attack on the 
mountain, " Wir waren fiinf ; der Professor und ich 
stimmten fur Vorwarts ; die drei andern stimmten 

'There is one circumstance in reference to my 
fall with the avalanche of the Haut de Cry that 
I am utterly unable to understand : I mean what 
physical phenomena took place when the avalanchp 
stopped and froze. It stopped because in its pro- 
gress downwards the broad couloir down which it 
was going got narrower, and the mass of snow could 
not pass. It froze because the successive portions 
of the body of the avalanche became compressed 
against the head, which latter had come to a stop. 
When the layer in which I was stopped, the pres- 
sure on my body was enormous — so great, in fact, 
that I expected I should be crushed flat. This 
pressure ceased suddenly : I know it, for the atro- 
cious pains it was causing ceased suddenly too. 
What happened during that interval ? ' 

[Bennen was well acquainted with winter snow , 
but no man of his temper, and in his position, 
would place himself in direct opposition to local 
guides, whose knowledge of the mountain must 
nave been superior to his own.] 




While staying at Pontresina in 1864 I joined Mr. 
Hutchinson, and Mr. Lee-Warner, of Rugby, in a 
memorable expedition up the Piz Morteratsch. This 
is a very noble mountain, and, as we thought, safe 
and easy to ascend. The resolute Jenni, by far the 
boldest man in Pontresina, was my guide ; while 
Walter, the official guide chef, was taken by my 
companions. With a dubious sky overhead, we 
started on the morning of July 30, a little after 
four a.m. There is rarely much talk at the begin- 
ning of a mountain excursion : you are either sleepy 
or solemn so early in the day. Silently we passed 
through the pine woods of the beautiful Rosegg 
valley, watching anxiously at intervals the play of 
the clouds around the adjacent heights. At one 
place a spring gushed from the valley-bottom, as 
clear and almost as copious as that which pours out 
the full -formed river Albula. The traces of ancient 


glaciers were present everywhere, the valley being 
thickly covered with the rubbish which the ice had 
left behind. An ancient moraine, so large that in 
England it might take rank as a mountain, forms a 
barrier across the upper valley. Once probably it 
was the dam of a lake, but it is now cut through by 
the river which rushes from the Rosegg glacier. 
These works of the ancient ice are to the mind what 
a distant horizon is to the eye. They give to the 
imagination both pleasure and repose. 

The morning, as I have said, looked threatening, 
but the wind was good ; by degrees the cloud-scowl 
relaxed, and broader patches of blue became visible 
above us. We called at the Rosegg chalets, and 
had some milk. We afterwards wound round a 
shoulder of the hill, at times upon the moraine of 
the glacier, and at times upon the adjacent grass 
slope ; then over shingly inclines, covered with the 
shot rubbish of the heights. Two ways were now 
open to us, the one easy but circuitous, the other 
stiff but short. Walter was for the former, and 
Jenni for the latter, their respective choices being 
characteristic of the two men. To my satisfaction 
Jenni prevailed, and we scaled the steep and slippery 
rocks. At the top of them we found ourselves upon 
the rim of an extended snow-field. Our rope was 
here exhibited, and we were bound by it to a com- 
mon destiny. In those higher regions the snow- fields 


show a beauty and a purity of which persons who 
linger low down have no notion. We crossed 
crevasses and bergschrunds, mounted vast snow- 
basses, and doubled round walls of ice with long 
stalactites pendent from their eaves. One by one 
the eminences were surmounted. The crowning- 
rock was attained at half-past twelve. On it we 
uncorked a bottle of champagne ; mixed with the 
pure snow of the mountain, it formed a beverage, 
and was enjoyed with a gusto, which the sybarite of 
the city could neither imitate nor share. 

We spent about an hour upon the warm gneiss- 
blocks on the top. Veils of cloud screened us at 
intervals from the sun, and then we felt the keen- 
ness of the air ; but in general we were cheered and 
comforted by the solar light and warmth. The 
shiftings of the atmosphere were wonderful. The 
white peaks were draped with opalescent clouds 
which never lingered for two consecutive minutes 
in the same position. Clouds differ widely from 
each other in point of beauty, but I had hardly seen 
them more beautiful than they appeared to-day, 
while the succession of surprises experienced through 
their changes were such as rarely fall to the lot even 
of an experienced mountaineer. 

These clouds are for the most part produced by 
the chilling of the air through its own expansion. 
When thus chilled, the aqueous vapour diffused 


through it, which is previously unseen, is precipi- 
tated in visible particles. Every particle of the 
cloud has consumed in its formation a little poly- 
hedron of vapour, and a moment's reflection will 
make it clear that the size of the cloud-particles 
must depend, not only on the size of the vapour 
polyhedron, but on the relation of the density of the 
vapour to that of its liquid. If the vapour were 
light and the liquid heavy, other things being 
equal, the cloud-particle would be smaller than if 
the vapour were heavy and the liquid light. There 
would evidently be more shrinkage in the one case 
than in the other. Now there are various liquids 
whose weight is not greater than that of water, 
while the weight of their vapours, bulk for bulk, is 
five or six times that of aqueous vapour. When 
those heavy vapours are precipitated as clouds, 
which is easily done artificially, their particles are 
found to be far coarser than those of an aqueous 
cloud. Indeed water is without a parallel in this 
particular. Its vapour is the lightest of all vapours, 
and to this fact the soft and tender beauty of the 
clouds of our atmosphere is mainly due. 1 

After an hour's halt upon the summit the descent 
began. Jenni is the most daring man and power- 
ful character among the guides of Pontresina. 
The manner in which he bears down all the others 

1 Chapter V., p. 405, is devoted to ' Clouds.' See also note, p. 82, 


in conversation, and imposes his own will upon 
them, shows that he is the dictator of the place. 
He is a large and rather an ugly man, and his 
progress up hill, though resistless, is slow. He had 
repeatedly expressed a wish to make an excursion 
with me, and on this occasion he may have desired 
to show us what he could do upon the mountains. 
He accomplished two daring things — the one success- 
fully, while the other was within a hair's-breadth 
of a very shocking issue. 

In descending we went straight down upon a 
bergschrund, which had compelled us to make a 
circuit in coming up. This particular kind of 
fissure is formed by the lower portion of a snow- 
slope falling away from the upper, a crevasse being 
thus formed between bath, which often surrounds 
the mountain as a fosse of terrible depth. Walter 
was the first of our party, and Jenni was the last. 
It was quite evident that the leader hesitated to 
cross the chasm ; but Jenni came forward, and half 
by expostulation, half by command, caused him to 
sit down on the snow at some height above the 
fissure. I think, moreover, he helped him with a 
shove. At all events, the slope was so steep that 
the guide shot down it with an impetus sufficient to 
carry him clear over the schrund. We all after- 
wards shot the chasm in this pleasant way. Jenni 
was behind Deviating from our track, he 


deliberately chose the widest part of the chasm, and 
shot over it, lumbering like behemoth down the 
snow-slope at the other side. It was an illustration 
of that practical knowledge which long residence 
among the mountains can alone impart, and in the 
possession of which our best English climbers fall 
far behind their guides. 

The remaining steep slopes were also descended 
by glissade, and we afterwards marched cheerily 
over the gentler inclines. We had ascended by 
the Eosegg glacier, and now we wished to descend 
upon the Morteratsch glacier and make it our high- 
way home. 

We reached the point at which it was necessary 
to quit our morning's track, and immediately 
afterwards got upon some steep rocks, rendered 
slippery here and there by the water which trickled 
over them. To our right was a broad couloir, 
filled with snow, which had been melted and re- 
frozen, so as to expose a steeply sloping wall of ice. 
We were tied together in the following order : 
Jenni led, I came next, then Mr. Hutchinson, a 
practised mountaineer, then Mr. Lee- Warner, and 
last of all the guide Walter. Lee-Warner had had 
but little experience of the higher Alps, and he was- 
placed in front of Walter, so that any false step on 
Ms part might be instantly checked. 

After descending the rocks for a time Jenni turned 


and asked me whether I thought them or the ice-slope 
the better track. I pronounced without hesitation in 
favour of the rocks, but he seemed to misunderstand 
me, and turned towards the couloir. I stopped 
him at the edge of it, and said, ; Jenni, you know 
where you are going ; the slope is pure ice.' He 
/eplied, ' I know it ; but the ice is quite bare for a 
few yards only. Across this exposed portion I will 
cut steps, and then the snow which covers the ice 
will give us a footing.' He cut the steps, reached 
the snow, and descended carefully along it, all fol- 
lowing him, apparently in good order. After some 
time he stopped, turned, and looked upwards at the 
last three men. ' Keep carefully in the steps, gentle- 
men,' he said ; i a false step here might detach an 
avalanche.' The word was scarcely uttered when I 
heard the sound of a fall behind me, then a rush, 
and in a moment my two friends and their guide, all 
apparently entangled together, whirred past me. I 
suddenly planted myself to resist their shock, but in 
an instant I was in their wake, for their impetus was 
irresistible. A moment afterwards Jenni was whirled 
away, and thus, in the twinkling of an eye, all five 
of us found ourselves riding downwards with un- 
controllable speed on the back of an avalanche 
which a single slip had originated. 

Previous to stepping on the slope, I had, accord- 
ing to habit, made clear to my mind what v?as to he 


done in case of mishap ; and accordingly, when over- 
thrown, I turned promptly on my face and drove my 
baton through the moving snow, and into the ice 
underneath. No time, however, was allowed for the 
break's action ; for I had held it firmly thus for a 
few seconds only, when I came into collision with 
Borne obstacle and was rudely tossed through the air, 
Jenni at the same time being shot down upon me. 
Both of us here lost our batons. We had been carried 
over a crevasse, had hit its lower edge, and, instead 
of dropping into it, were pitched by our great velo- 
city far beyond it. I was quite bewildered for a 
moment, but immediately righted myself, and could 
see the men in front of me half buried in the snow, 
and jolted from side to side by the ruts among which 
we were passing. Suddenly I saw them tumbled 
over by a lurch of the avalanche, and immediately 
afterwards found myself imitating their motion. 
This was caused by a second crevasse. Jenni knew 
of its existence and plunged, he told me, right into 
it — a brave act, but for the time unavailing. By 
jumping into the chasm he thought a strain might 
be put upon the rope sufficient to check the motion. 
But, though over thirteen stone in weight, he was 
violently jerked out of the fissure and almost 
squeezed to death by the pressure of the rope. 

A long slope was below us, which led directly down- 
wards to a brow where the glacier fell precipitously. 


At the base of the declivity the ice was cut by a 
series of profound chasms, towards which we were 
rapidly borne. The three foremost men rode upon the 
forehead of the avalanche, and were at times almost 
wholly immersed in the snow ; but the moving layer 
was thinner behind, and Jenni rose incessantly and 
with desperate energy drove his feet into the firmer 
substance underneath. His voice, shouting 'Halt! 
Herr Jesus, halt ! ' was the only one heard during 
the descent. A kind of condensed memory, such as 
that described by people who have narrowly escaped 
drowning, took possession of me, and my power of 
reasoning remained intact. I thought of Bennen on 
the Haut de Cry, and muttered, ' It is now my turn.' 
Then I coolly scanned the men in front of me, and 
reflected that, if theii vis viva was the only tiling to 
be neutralised, Jenni and myself could stop them ; 
but to arrest both them and the mass of snow in 
which they were caught was hopeless. I expe- 
rienced no intolerable dread. In fact, the start was 
too sudden and the excitement of the rush too great 
to permit of the development of terror. 

Looking in advance, I noticed that the slope, for 
a short distance, became less steep, and then fell as 
before. ' Now or never we must be brought to rest.' 
The speed visibly slackened, and I thought we were 
saved. But the momentum had been too great : 
the avalanche crossed the brow and in part regained 


its motion. Here Hutchinson threw his arm round 
his friend, all hope being extinguished, while I 
grasped my belt and struggled to free myself. 
Finding this difficult, from the tossing, I sullenly 
resumed the strain upon the rope. Destiny had 
so related the downward impetus to Jenni's pull 
as to give the latter a slight advantage, and the 
whole question was whether the opposing force 
would have sufficient time to act. This was also 
arranged in our favour, for we came to rest so near 
the brow that two or three seconds of our average 
motion of descent must have carried us over. Had 
this occurred, we should have fallen into the chasms, 
and been covered up by the tail of the avalanche. 
Hutchinson emerged from the snow with his fore- 
head bleeding, but the wound was superficial; Jenni 
had a bit of flesh removed from his hand by collision 
against a stone ; the pressure of the rope had left 
black welts on my arms ; and we all experienced a 
tingling sensation over the hands, like that pro- 
duced by incipient frostbite, which continued for 
several days. This was all. I found a portion of 
my watch-chain hanging round my neck, another 
portion in my pocket ; the watch was gone. 

This happened on the 30th of July. Two days 
afterwards I went to Italy, and remained there 
for ten or twelve days. On the 16th of August, 
being again at Pontresina, I made on that day an 


expedition in search of the lost watch. Both the 
guides and myself thought the sun's heat might 
melt the snow above it, and I inferred that if its 
back should happen to be uppermost the slight 
absorbent power of gold for the solar rays would 
prevent the watch from sinking as a stone sinks 
under like circumstances. The watch would thus 
be brought quite to the surface ; and, although a 
small object, it might possibly be seen from some 
distance. Five friends accompanied me up the 
Morteratsch glacier. One of them was the late 
Mr. North, member for Hastings, a most lovable 
man. He was then sixty-four years of age, but he 
exhibited a courage and collectedness, and indeed a 
delight, in the wild savagery of the crevasses which 
were perfectly admirable. 

Two only of the party, both competent moun- 
taineers, accompanied me to the track of our glis- 
sade, but none of us ventured on the ice where it 
originated. Just before stepping upon the snow, 
a stone some tons in weight, detached by the sun 
from the heights above us, came rushing down the 
line of our descent. Its leaps became more and more 
impetuous, and on reaching the brow near which we 
had been brought to rest it bounded through the 
air, and with a single spring reached the lower 
glacier, raising a cloud of ice-dust. Some frag- 
ments of rope found upon the snow assured us that 


we were upon the exact track of the avalanche, and 
then the search commenced. It had not continued 
twenty minutes when a cheer from one of the guides 
— Christian Michel of Grrindelwald — announced 
the discovery of the watch. It had been brought 
to the surface in the manner surmised, and on ex- 
amination seemed to be dry and uninjured. I 
noticed, moreover, that the position of the hands 
indicated that it had only run down beneath the 
snow. I wound it up, hardly hoping, however, to 
find it capable of responding. But it showed instant 
signs of animation. It had remained eighteen days 
in the avalanche, but the application of its key at 
once restored it to action, and it has gone with 
unvarying regularity ever since 

Mr. Hutchinson has published the following note 
of the accident in the ' Alpine Journal ' : 

4 As one of the party concerned in the accident on 
the Piz Morteratsch last July, I trust I shall not be 
thought presumptuous in bearing my testimony to 
the entire accuracy of Professor Tyndall's account. 
I can add no facts of any importance to those there 
mentioned, unless it be that we estimated the dis- 
tance down which we were carried at fully 1,000 
feet — a conclusion which, Mr. Tyndall tells me, was 
confirmed by his subsequent visit to the spot. The 
angle of the slope we did not measure, nor can I 


give the time of our descent with any accuracy ; it 
seemed to me a lifetime. From the moment that 
the snow cracked, Jenni behaved with the greatest 
coolness and courage. But he ought not to have 
taken us down the ice-slope so late in the day — it 
was then nearly half-past two o'clock — and that 
after a warning word from Professor Tyndall and 
myself. Of Walter's conduct the less said the 
better ; our opinion of his courage was not raised 
by this trial of it.' 

[Until Mr. Grossett's letter reached me a few days 
ago I was not aware of the singular likeness between 
the loss of Bennen's watch and of my own.-— April 





To the physical geologist the conformation of the 
Alps, and of mountain-regions generally, constitutes 
one of the most interesting problems of the present 
day. To account for this conformation, two hypo- 
theses have been advanced, which may be respect- 
ively named the hypothesis of fracture and the 
hypothesis of erosion. Those who adopt the for- 
mer maintain that the forces by which the Alps 
were elevated produced fissures in the earth's crust, 
and that the valleys of the Alps are the tracks of 
these fissures. Those who hold the latter hypothesis 
maintain that the valleys have been cut out by the 
action of ice and water, the mountains themselves 
being the residual forms of this grand sculpture. 
To the erosive action here indicated must be added 
that due to the atmosphere (the severance and de- 
tachment of rocks by rain and frost), as affecting 
the forms of the more exposed and elevated peaks. 

I had heard it stated that the Via Mala was a 
striking illustration of the fissure theory — that the 
profound chasm thus named, and through which the 


Hinter-Rhein now flows, could be nothing else thai? 
a crack in the earth's crust. To the Via Mala I 
therefore went in 1864 to instruct myself by actual 
observation upon the point in question. 

The gorge commences about a quarter of an 
hour above Tusis ; and, on entering it, the first 
conclusion is that it must be a fissure. This con- 
clusion in my case was modified as I advanced. 
Some distance up the gorge I found upon the slopes 
to my right quantities of rolled stones, evidently 
rounded by water-action. Still further up, and just 
before reaching the first bridge which spans the 
chasm, I found more rolled stones, associated with 
sand and gravel. Through this mass of detritus, 
fortunately, a vertical cutting had been made, which 
exhibited a section showing perfect stratification. 
There was no agency in the place to roll these 
stones, and to deposit these alternating layers of 
sand and pebbles, but the river which now rushes 
some hundreds of feet below them. At one period 
of the Via Mala's history the river must have run at 
this high level. Other evidences of water-action 
soon revealed themselves. From the parapet of the 
first bridge I could see the solid rock 200 feet above 
the bed of the river scooped and eroded. 

It is stated in the guide-books that the river, 
which usually runs along ~he bottom of the gorge, has 
been known almost to fill it during violent thunder- 


Btorms ; and it may be urged that the marks of 
erosion which the sides of the chasm exhibit are due 
to those occasional floods. In reply to this, it may 
be stated that even the existence of such floods is not 
well authenticated, and that if the supposition were 
true, it would be an additional argument in favour 
of the cutting power of the river. For if floods 
operating at rare intervals could thus erode the 
rock, the same agency, acting without ceasing upon 
the river's bed, must certainly be competent to 
excavate it. 

I proceeded upwards, and from a point near 
another bridge (which of them I did not note) had 
a fine view of a portion of the gorge. The river 
here runs at the bottom of a cleft of profound 
depth, but so narrow that it might be leaped across. 
That this cleft must be a crack is the impression 
first produced ; but a brief inspection suffices to 
prove that it has been cut by the river. From top 
to bottom we have the unmistakable marks of 
erosion. This cleft was best seen by looking down- 
wards from a point near the bridge ; but looking 
upwards from the bridge itself, the evidence of 
aqueous erosion was equally convincing. 

The character of the erosion depends upon the 
rock as well as upon the river. The action of water 
upon some rocks is almost purely mechanical ; they 
are simply ground away or detached in sensible 


masses. In other cases the action is chemical as well 
as mechanical. Water, in passing over limestone, 
charges itself with carbonate of lime without da- 
mage to its transparency ; the rock is dissolved in the 
water ; and the gorges cut by water in such rocks 
often resemble those cut in the ice of glaciers by 
glacier streams. To the solubility of limestone is 
probably to be ascribed the fantastic forms which 
peaks of this rock usually assume, and also the 
grottos and caverns which interpenetrate limestone 
formations. A rock capable of being thus dissolved 
will expose a smooth surface after the water has 
quitted it ; and in the case of the Via Mala it is the 
polish of the surfaces, and also the curved hollows 
scooped in the sides of the gorge, which assure us 
that the chasm has been the work of the river. 

About four miles from Tusis, and not far from 
the little village of Zillis, the Via Mala opens into a 
plain bounded by high terraces, evidently cut by 
water. It occurred to me the moment I saw it that 
the plain had been the bed of an ancient lake ; and 
a farmer, who was my temporary companion, imme- 
diately informed me that such was the tradition of 
the neighbourhood. This man conversed with intel- 
ligence, and as I drew his attention to the rolled 
stones, which rest not only above the river, but above 
the road, and inferred that the river must have been 
there to have rolled those stones, he saw the force of 


the evidence perfectly. In fact, in former times, and 
subsequent to the retreat of the great glaciers, a 
rocky barrier crossed the valley at this place, dam- 
ming the river which came from the glaciers higher 
up. A lake was thus formed which poured its 
waters over the barrier. Two actions were here at 
work, both tending to obliterate the lake — the rais- 
ing of its bed by the deposition of detritus, and the 
cutting of its dam by the river. In process of time 
the cut deepened into the Via Mala ; the lake was 
drained, and the river now flows in a definite 
channel through the plain which its waters once 
totally covered. 

From Tusis I crossed to Tiefenkasten by the 
Schien Pass, and thence over the Julier Pass to 
Pontresina. There are three or four ancient lake- 
beds between Tiefenkasten and the summit of the 
Julier. They are all of the same type — a more or 
less broad and level valley-bottom, with a barrier in 
front through which the river has cut a passage, the 
drainage of the lake being the consequence. These 
lakes are sometimes dammed by barriers of rock, 
sometimes by the moraines of ancient glaciers. 

An example of this latter kind occurs in the Rosegg 
valley, about twenty minutes below the end of the 
Rosegg glacier, and about an hour from Pontresina. 
The valley here is crossed by a pine-covered moraine 
of the noblest dimensions : in the neighbourhood of 


London it might be called a mountain. That it is 
a moraine, the inspection of it from a point on the 
Surlei slopes above it will convince any person pos- 
sessing an educated eye. Where, moreover, the in- 
terior of the mound is exposed, it exhibits moraine- 
matter — detritus pulverised by the ice, with boulders 
entangled in it. It stretched quite across the valley, 
and at one time dammed the river up. But now the 
barrier is cut through, the stream having about one- 
fourth of the moraine to its right, and the remaining 
three-fourths to its left. Other moraines of a more 
resisting character hold their ground as barriers to 
the present day. In the Val di Campo, for example, 
about three-quarters of an hour from Pisciadeilo, 
there is a moraine composed of large boulders, which 
interrupt the course of a river and compel the water 
to fall over them in cascades. They have in great 
part resisted its action since the retreat of the 
ancient glacier which formed the moraine. Behind 
the moraine is a lake-bed, now converted into a 
meadow, which is quite level, and rests on a deep 
layer of mould. 

At Pontresina a very fine and instructive gorge is 
to be seen. The river from the Morteratsch glacier 
rushes through a deep and narrow chasm which is 
spanned at one place by a stone bridge. The rock 
is not of a character to preserve smooth polishing ; 
but the larger features of water-action are perfectly 


evident from top to bottom. Those features are in 
part visible from the bridge, but still better from 
a point a little distance from the bridge in the 
direction of the upper village of Pontresina. The 
hollowing out of the rock by the eddies of the water 
is here quite manifest. A few minutes' walk up- 
wards brings us to the end of the gorge ; and behind 
it we have the usual indications of an ancient lake, 
and terraces of distinct water origin. 

From this position the genesis of the gorge is 
clearly revealed. After the retreat of the ancient 
glacier, a transverse ridge of comparatively resisting 
material crossed the valley at this place. Over the 
lowest part of this ridge the river flowed, rushing 
steeply clown to join at the bottom of the slope the 
stream which issued from the Rosegg glacier. On 
this incline the water became a powerful eroding 
agent, and finally cut its channel to its present depth. 

Geological writers of reputation assume at this 
place the existence of a fissure, the ' washing out ' 
of which resulted in the formation of the gorge. 
Now no examination of the bed of the river ever 
proved the existence of this fissure ; and it is certain 
that water can cut a channel through unfis&ured rock 
— that cases of deep cutting can be pointed out 
where the clean bed of the stream is exposed, the rock 
which forms the floor of the river not exhibiting a 
trace of fissure. An example of this kind occurs near 


the Bernina Grasthaus, about two hours from Pontre- 
sina. A little way below the junction of the two 
streams from the Bernina Pass and the Heuthal the 
river flows through a channel cut by itself, and 20 
or 30 feet in depth. At some places the river-bed 
is covered with rolled stones ; at other places it is 
bare, but shows no trace of fissure. The abstract 
power of water (if I may use the term) to cut 
through rock is demonstrated by such instances. 
But if water be competent to form a gorge without 
the aid of a fissure, why assume the existence of such 
in cases like that at Pontresina ? It seems far more 
philosophical to accept the simple and impressive 
history written on the walls of those gorges by the 
a<>;ent which produced them. 

Numerous cases might be pointed out, varying 
in magnitude, but all identical in kind, of barriers 
which crossed valleys and formed lakes having been 
cut through by rivers, narrow gorges being the con- 
sequence. One of the most famous examples of 
this kind is the Finsteraarschlucht in the vallev of 
Hasli. Here the ridge called the Kirchet seems 
split across, and the river Aar rushes through the 
fissure. Behind the barrier we have the meadows 
and pastures of Imhof resting on the sediment of 
an ancient lake. Were this an isolated case, one 
might reasonably conclude that the Finisteraar- 
schlucht was produced by an earthquake, as some 


suppose it to have been ; but when we find it to be 
a single sample of actions which are frequent in 
the Alps — when probably a hundred cases of the 
same kind, though different in magnitude, can be 
pointed out — it seems quite unphilosophical to 
assume that in each particular case an earthquake 
was at hand to form a channel for the river. As in 
the case of the barrier at Pontresina, the Kirchet, 
after the retreat of the Aar glacier, dammed the 
waters flowing from it, thus forming a lake, on the 
bed of which now stands the village of Imhof. 
Over this barrier the Aar tumbled towards Mey- 
ringen, cutting, as the centuries passed, its bed ever 
deeper, until finally it became deep enough to drain 
the lake, leaving in its place the alluvial plain, 
through which the river now flows in a definite 
channel. 1 

But the broad view taken by the advocates of the 
fracture theory is, that the valleys are the tracks of 
primeval fissures produced by the upheaval of the 
land, and the cracks across the barriers to which 
I have referred are in reality portions of the 
great cracks which formed the valleys. Such an 
argument, however, would virtually concede the 
theory of erosion as applied to the valleys of the 
Alps. The narrow gorges, often not more than 
twenty or thirty feet across, sometimes even 
1 For fuither observations see p. 256. 


narrower, frequently occur at the bottom of broad 
valleys. Such fissures might enter into the list of 
accidents which gave direction to the real erosive 
agents which scooped the valley out ; but the for- 
mation of the valley, as it now exists, could no 
more be ascribed to it than the motion of a railway 
train could be ascribed to the finger of the engineer 
which turns on the steam. 

These deep gorges occur, I believe, for the most 
part in limestone strata ; and the effects which the 
merest driblet of water can produce on such rocks 
are quite astonishing. It is not uncommon to meet 
chasms of considerable depth produced by small 
streams the beds of which are dry for a large portion 
of the year. Eight and left of the larger gorges 
such secondary chasms are usually to be found. 
The idea of time must, I think, be more and more 
included in our reasonings on these phenomena. 
Happily, the marks which the rivers have, in most 
cases, left behind them, and which refer, geologi- 
cally considered, to actions of yesterday, give us 
ground and courage to conceive what may be ef- 
fected in geologic periods. Thus the modern por- 
tion of the Via Mala throws light upon the whole. 
Near Berg (in, in the valley of the Albula, there is 
also a little Via Mala, which is not less significant 
than the great one. The river flows here through 
a profound limestone gorge ; but to the very edges 


of the gorge we have the evidences of erosion. The 
most striking illustration of water-action upon 
limestone rock which I have ever witnessed is, I 
think, furnished by the gorge at Pfaffers. Here the, 
traveller passes along the side of the chasm midway 
between top and bottom. Whichever way he looks, 
backwards or forwards, upwards or downwards, to- 
wards the sky or towards the river, he meets every- 
where the irresistible and impressive evidence that 
this wonderful fissure has been sawn through the 
mountain by the waters of the Tamina. 

I have thus far confined myself to the considera- 
tion of the gorges formed by the cutting through 
of the rock-barriers which frequently cross the 
valleys of the Alps ; as far as I have examined them 
they are the work of erosion. But the largei 
question still remains, To what action are we to 
ascribe the formation of the valleys themselves ? 
This question includes that of the formation of the 
mountain-ridges, for were the valleys wholly filled, 
the ridges would disappear. Possibly no answei 
can be given to this question which is not beset 
with more or less of difficulty. Special localities 
might be found which would seem to contradict 
every solution which refers the conformation of the 
Alps to the operation of a single cause. 

Still the Alps present features of a character suffi- 
ciently definite to bring the question of their origin 


within the sphere of close reasoning. That they 
were in whole or in part once beneath the sea will 
not be disputed ; for they are in great part com- 
posed of sedimentary rocks which required a sea to 
form them. Their present elevation above the sea 
is due to one of those local changes in the shape of 
the earth which have been of frequent occurrence 
throughout geologic time, and which in some cases 
have depressed the land, and in others caused the 
sea-bottom to protrude beyond its surface. Con- 
sidering the inelastic character of its materials, the 
protuberance of the Alps could hardly have been 
pushed out without dislocation and fracture ; and 
this conclusion gains in probability when we con- 
sider the foldings, contortions, and even reversals 
in position of the strata in many parts of the Alps 
Such changes in the position of beds which were 
once horizontal could not have been effected without 
dislocation. Fissures would be produced by these 
cnanges ; and such fissures, the advocates of the 
fracture theory contend, mark the positions of the 
valleys of the Alps. 

Imagination is necessary to the man of science, 
and we could not reason on our present subject 
without the power of presenting mentally a picture 
of the earth's crust cracked and fissured by the 
forces which produced its upheaval. Imagination, 
however, must be strictly checked by reason and by 


observation. That fractures occurred cannot, I think, 
be doubted, but that the valleys of the Alps are thus 
formed is a conclusion not at all involved in the 
admission of dislocations. I never met with a 
precise statement of the manner in which the ad- 
vocates of the fissure theory suppose the forces to 
have acted — whether they assume a general eleva- 
tion of the region, or a local elevation of distinct 
ridges ; or whether they assume local subsidences 
after a general elevation, or whether they would 
superpose upon the general upheaval minor and 
local upheavals. 

In the absence of any distinct statement, J 
will assume the elevation to be general — that a 
swelling out of the earth's crust occurred here, 
sufficient to place the most prominent portions of 
the protuberance three miles above the sea-level. 
To fix the ideas, let us consider a circular portion of 
the crust, say one hundred miles in diameter, ana 
let us suppose, in the first instance, the circum 
ference of this circle to remain fixed, and that the 
elevation was confined to the space within it. The 
upheaval would throw the crust into a state of 
strain ; and, if it were inflexible, the strain must be 
relieved by fracture. Crevasses would thus intersect 
the crust. Let us now enquire what proportion the 
area of these open fissures is likely to bear to the 
area of the urtfissured crust. An approximate 

232 hours of exercise in the alts. [isb-i 

answer is all that is here required ; for the problem 
is of such a character as to render minute precision 

No one, I think, would affirm that the area of the 
fissures would be one-hundredth the area of the land. 
For let us consider the strain upon a single line 
drawn over the summit of the protuberance from 
a point on its rim to a point opposite. Regarding 
the protuberance as a spherical swelling, the length 
of the arc corresponding to a chord of 100 miles 
and a versed sine of 3 miles is 100*24 miles ; conse- 
quently the surface to reach its new position must 
stretch 0*24 of a mile, or be broken. A fissure or a 
number of cracks with this total width would relieve 
the strain ; that is to say, the sum of the widths of 
all the cracks over the length of 100 miles would be 
420 yards. If, instead of comparing the width of the 
fissures with the length of the lines of tension, we 
compared their areas with the area of the unfissured 
land, we should of course find the proportion much 
less. These considerations will help the imagina 
tion to realise what a small ratio the area of the 
open fissures must bear to the unfissured crust. 
They enable us to say, for example, that to assume 
the area of the fissures to be one-tenth of the area 
of the land would be quite absurd, while that the 
area of the fissures could be one-half or more than 
one-half that of the land would be in a proportionate 


degree unthinkable. If we suppose the elevation 
to be due to the shrinking or subsidence of the 
land all round our assumed circle, we arrive equally 
at the conclusion that the area of the open fissures 
would be altogether insignificant as compared with 
that of the unfissured crust. 

To those who have seen them from a commanding 
elevation, it is needless to say that the Alps them- 
selves bear no sort of resemblance to the picture 
which this theory presents to us. Instead of deep 
cracks with approximately vertical walls, we have 
ridges before us running into peaks, and gradually 
sloping to form valleys. Instead of a fissured crust, 
we have a state of things closely resembling the 
surface of the ocean when agitated by a storm. 
The valleys, instead of being much narrower than 
the ridges, occupy the greater space. A plaster 
cast of the Alps turned upside down, so as to invert 
the elevations and depressions, would exhibit blunter 
and broader mountains, with narrower valleys be- 
tween them, than the present ones. The valleys 
that exist cannot, I think, with any correctness of 
language be called fissures. It may be urged that 
they originated in fissures : but even this is un- 
proved, and, were it proved, would still make the 
fissures play the subordinate part of giving direction 
to the agents which are to be regarded as the real 
sculptors of the Alps. 


The fracture theory, then, if it regards the eleva- 
tion of the Alps as due to the operation of a force 
acting throughout the entire region, is, in my 
opinion, utterly incompetent to account for the 
conformation of the country. If, on the other hand, 
we are compelled to resort to local disturbances, 
the manipulation of the earth's crust necessary to 
obtain the valleys and the mountains will, I ima- 
gine, bring the difficulties of the theory into very 
strong relief. Indeed an examination of the region 
from many of the more accessible eminences 
— from the Gralenstock, the Grrauhaupt, the Pitz 
Languard, the Monte Conflnale — or, better still, 
from Mont Blanc, Monte Eosa, the Jungfrau, the 
Finsteraarhorn, the Weisshorn, or the Matterhorn, 
where local peculiarities are toned down, and the 
operations of the powers which really made this 
region what it is are alone brought into prominence 
— must, I imagine, convince every physically-minded 
man of the inability of any fracture theory to 
account for the present conformation of the Alps, 

A correct model of the mountains, with an un- 
exaggerated vertical scale, produces the same effect 
upon the mind as the prospect from one of the 
highest peaks. We are apt to be influenced by 
local phenomena which, though insignificant in 
view of the general question of Alpine conformation, 
are, with reference to our customary standards, vast 

1864] ALPINE SCULrTUKE. 235 

and impressive. In a true model those local peculi* 
arities disappear ; for on the scale of a model they 
are too small to be visible ; while the essential facts 
and forms are presented to the undistracted at- 

A minute analysis of the phenomena strengthens 
the conviction which the general aspect of the Alps 
fixes in the mind. We find, for example, numerous 
valleys which the most ardent plutonist would not 
think of ascribing to any other agency than erosion. 
That such is their genesis and history is as certain 
as that erosion produced the Chines in the Isle of 
Wight. From these indubitable cases of erosion — 
commencing, if necessary, with the small ravines 
which run down the flanks of the ridges, with their 
little working navigators at their bottoms — we can 
proceed, by almost insensible gradations, to the 
largest valleys of the Alps ; and it would perplex 
the plutonist to fix upon the point at which 
fracture begins to play a material part. 

In ascending one of the larger valleys, we enter it 
where it is wide and where the eminences are gentle 
on either side. The flanking mountains become 
higher and more abrupt as we ascend, and at length 
we reach a place where the depth of the valley is a 
maximum. Continuing our walk upwards, we find 
ourselves flanked by gentler slopes, and finally 
emerge from the valley and reach the summit of an 


open col, or depression in the chain of mountains. 
This is the common character of the large valleys. 
Crossing the col, we descend along the opposite 
slope of the chain, and through the same series of 
appearances in the reverse order. If the valleys on 
both sides of the col were produced by fissures, what 
prevents the fissure from prolonging itself across the 
col ? The case here cited is representative ; and I 
am not acquainted with a single instance in the 
Alps where the chain has been cracked in the 
manner indicated. The cols are simply depressions-, 
and in the case of many of them the unfissured rock 
can be traced from side to side. 

The typical instance just sketched follows as a 
natural consequence from the theory of erosion. 
Before either ice or water can exert great power as 
an erosive agent, it must collect in sufficient mass. 
On the higher slopes and plateaus — in the region of 
cols — the power is not fully developed ; but lower 
down tributaries unite, erosion is carried on with 
increased vigour, and the excavation gradually 
reaches a maximum. Lower still the elevations 
diminish and the slopes become more gentle ; the 
cutting power gradually relaxes, until finally the 
eroding agent quits the mountains altogether, and 
the grand effects which it produced in the earlier 
portions of its course entirely disappear. 

I have hitherto confined myself to the consideiation 


of the broad question of the erosion theory aa 
compared with the fracture theory ; and all that I 
have been able to observe and think with reference 
to the subject leads me to adopt the former. Under 
the term erosion I include the action of water, of 
ice, and of the atmosphere, including frost and rain. 
Water and ice, however, are the principal agents, 
and which of these two has produced the greatest 
effect it is perhaps impossible to say. Two years 
ago I wrote a brief note ' On the Conformation of 
the Alps,' l in which I ascribed the paramount 
influence to glaciers. The facts on which that 
opinion was founded are, I think, unassailable ; but 
whether the conclusion then announced fairly follows 
from the facts is, I confess, an open question. 

The arguments which have been thus far urged 
against the conclusion are not convincing. Indeed, 
the idea of glacier erosion appears so daring to some 
minds that its boldness alone is deemed its sufficient 
refutation. It is, however, to be remembered that 
a precisely similar position was taken up by many 
respectable people when the question of ancient 
glacier extension was first mooted. The idea was 
considered too hardy to be entertained; and the evi- 
dences of glacial action were sought to be explained 
by reference to almost any process rather than the 
true one. Let those who so wisely took the side of 

1 Phil. Mag. vol. xxiv. p. 1 69. 


' boldness ' in that discussion beware lest they place 
themselves, with reference to the question of glacier 
erosion, in the position formerly occupied by their 

Looking at the little glaciers of the present day — 
mere pigmies as compared to the giants of the 
glacial epoch — we find that from every one of them 
issues a river more or less voluminous, charged with 
the matter which the ice has rubbed from the rocks. 
Where the rocks are of a soft character, the amount 
of this finely pulverised matter suspended in the 
water is very great. The water, for example, of the 
river which flows from Santa Catarina to Bormio 
is thick with it. The Rhine is charged with this 
matter, and by it has so silted up the Lake of 
Constance as to abolish it for a large fraction of its 
length. The Rhone is charged with it, and tens of 
thousands of acres of cultivable land are formed by 
it above the Lake of Greneva. 

In the case of every glacier we have two agents 
at work — the ice exerting a crushing force on 
every point of its bed which bears its weight, and 
either rasping this point into powder or tearing it 
bodily from -the rock to which it belongs ; while 
the water which everywhere circulates upon the bed 
of the glacier continually washes the detritus away 
and leaves the rock clean for further abrasion. 
Confining the action of glaciers to the simple rubbing 


away of the rocks, and allowing them sufficient time 
to act, it is not a matter of opinion, but a physical 
certainty, that they will scoop out valleys. But the 
glacier does more than abrade. Eocks are not 
homogeneous ; they are intersected by joints and 
places of weakness, which divide them into virtually 
detached masses. A glacier is undoubtedly compe- 
tent to root such masses bodily away. Indeed the 
mere a 'priori consideration of the subject proves the 
competence of a glacier to deepen its bed. Taking 
the case of a glacier 1,000 feet deep (and some of 
the older ones were probably three times this depth), 
and allowing 40 feet of ice to an atmosphere, we find 
that on every square inch of its bed such a glacier 
presses with a weight of 375 lbs., and on every square 
yard of its bed with a weight of 486,000 lbs. With a 
vertical pressure of this amount the glacier is urged 
down its valley by the pressure from behind. We 
can hardly, I think, deny to such a tool a power of 

Before concluding these remarks, I refreshed my 
memory by a second reading of the paper of Mr. John 
Ball, published in the ' Philosophical Magazine ' for 
February 1863. Mr. Ball's great experience of the 
Alps naturally renders everything he writes regard- 
ing them interesting. But though I have attende I 
to the suggestions contained in his paper, I am 
unable to see the cogency of his arguments, 


An inspection of the map of Switzerland, with 
reference to the direction of its valleys, suggests to 
my mind no objection whatever to the theory of 

The reperusal of his paper assured me that Mr. 
Ball had paid attention to the formation of ancient 
lakes. He deems their beds a prominent feature of 
Alpine valleys ; and he considers the barriers which 
dammed them up, and which were not removed 
by the ancient glaciers, as ' a formidable difficulty 
in the way of Prof. Tyndall's bold hypothesis.' 
' Looking at the operation as a whole,' writes Mr. 
Ball, ' it is to me quite inconceivable that a glacier 
should be competent to scoop out valleys a mile or 
more in depth, and yet be unable to remove the 
main inequalities from its own channel.' 

To this I reply that a glacier is competent to 
remove such barriers, and they probably have been 
ground down in some cases thousands of feet. 
But being of more resisting material than the 
adjacent rock, they are not ground down to the 
level of that rock. Were its bed uniform in the 
first instance, the glacier would, in my opinion, 
produce the inequalities which Mr. Ball thinks it 
ought to remove. I have recently had the pleasure 
of examining some of tl ese barriers in the com- 
pany of Mr. Ball ; and to me they represented 
nothing more than the natural accidents of the 


locality. It would, I think, be far more wonderful 
to find the rocks of the Alps perfectly homogeneous, 
than to find them exhibiting such variations of resis- 
tance to grinding down as are actually observed. 

The question of lake-basins is now in com- 
petent hands, and on its merits I will offer no 
opinion. But I cannot help remarking that the 
clams referred to by Mr. Ball furnish a conclusive 
reply to some of the arguments which have been 
urged against Prof. Eamsay's theory. These barriers 
have been crossed by the ice, and many of them 
present steeper gradients than Prof. Eamsay has 
to cope with in order to get his ice out of his lake- 
basins. An inspection of the barriers shows that 
they were incompetent to embay the ice : they are 
scarred and fluted from bottom to top. When it is 
urged against Prof. Ramsay that a glacier cannot 
drop into a hole 2,000 feet deep and get out again, 
the distance oimht to be stated over which these 
2,000 feet have to be distributed. A depression 
2,000 feet deep, if only of sufficient length, would 
constitute no material obstacle to the motion of a 
great glacier. 

The retardation of a glacier by its bed has 
also been referred to as proving its impotence as 
an erosive agent ; but this very retardation is in 
some measure an expression of the magnitude of the 
erosive energy. Either the bed must give way, or 


the ice must slide over itself ; and to make ice slide 
over itself requires great power. We get some idea 
of the crushing pressure which the moving glacier 
exercises against its bed from the fact that the resist- 
ance, and the effort to overcome it, are such as to 
make the upper layers of a glacier move bodily over 
the lower ones — a portion only of the total motion 
being due to the progress of the entire mass of the 
glacier down its valley. 

The sudden bend in the valley of the Rhone at 
Martigny has also been, regarded as conclusive 
evidence against the theory of erosion. ' Why,' it 
has been asked, ' did not the glacier of the Rhone 
go straight forward instead of making this awkward 
bend ? ' But if the valley be a crack, why did the 
crack make this bend ? The crack, I submit, had at 
least as much reason to prolong itself in a straight 
line as the glacier had. A statement of Sir John 
Jlerschel with reference to another matter is perfectly 
applicable here : ' A crack once produced has a 
tendency to run — for this plain reason, that at its 
momentary limit, at the point at which it has just 
arrived, the divellent force on the molecules there 
situated is counteracted only by half of the cohesive 
force which acted when there was no crack, viz. the 
cohesion of the uncracked portion alone ' ( c Proc. Roy. 
Soc' vol. xii. p. 678). To account then for the bend, 
the adherent of the fracture theory must assume the 


existence of some accident which turned the crack 
at right angles to itself; and he surely will permit 
the adherent of the erosion theory to make a similar 

The influence of small accidents on the direction 
of rivers is beautifully illustrated in glacier streams, 
which are made to cut either straight or sinuous 
channels by causes apparently of the most trivial 
character. In his interesting paper ' On the Lakes 
of Switzerland,' M. Studer also refers to the bend of 
the Ehine at Sargans in proof that the river must 
there follow a pre-existing fissure. I made a special 
expedition to the place in 1864 ; and though I 
felt that M. Studer had good grounds for the 
selection of this spot, I was unable to arrive at his 
conclusion as to the necessity of a fissure. 

Again, in the interesting volume recently published 
by the Swiss Alpine Club, M. Desor informs us that 
the Swiss naturalists who met last year at Samaden 
visited the end of the Morteratsch glacier, and there 
convinced themselves that a glacier had no tendency 
whatever to imbed itself in the soil. I scarcely 
think that the question of glacier erosion, as applied 
either to lakes or valleys, is to be disposed of so 
easily. Let me record here my experience of the 
Morteratsch glacier. I took with me in 1864 
a theodolite to Pontresina, and while there had 
to congratulate myself on the invaluable aid of 




my friend Mr. Hirst, who in 1857 did such good 
service upon the Mer de Glace and its tributaries. 
We set out three lines across the Morteratsch glacier, 
one of which crossed the ice-stream near the well- 
known hut of the painter Georgei, while the two 
others were staked out, the one above the hut and 
the other below it. Calling the highest line A, the 
line which crossed the glacier at the hut B, and the 
lowest line C, the following are the mean hourly 
motions of the three lines, deduced from observa- 
tions which extended over several days. On each 
line eleven stakes were fixed, which are designated 
by the figures 1, 2, 3, &c. in the Tables. 

Morteratsch Glacier. Line A. 

No. of Stake. 

Hourly Motion. 


. 0*35 inch. 


0-49 „ 














0>52 . 












. 0-20 


As in all other measurements of this kind, the re- 
tarding influence of the sides of the glacier is mani- 
fest : the centre moves with the greatest velocity. 




Morteratsch Glacier, Line B. 

No. of Stake. Hourly Motion. 

1 0-05 inch. 

. 0-1-4 „ 



The first stake of this line was quite close to the 
edge of the glacier, and the ice was thin at the place, 
hence its slow motion. Crevasses prevented us from 
carrying the line sufficiently far across to render the 
retardation of the further side of the glacier fully 

Morteratsch Glacier, Line C. 

No of Stake. Hourly Motion. 






























0-1 « 




Comparing the three lines together, it will be 
observed that the velocity diminishes as we descend 
the glacier. In 100 hours the maximum motion of 
the three lines respectively is as follows : 

Maximum Motion in 100 hours. 

Line A . . . .56 inches 
„ B . . . . 45 „ 
„ C . . . . 30 „ 

This deportment explains an appearance which 
must strike every observer who looks upon the 
Morteratsch from the Piz Languard, or from the 
new Bernina Eoad. A medial moraine runs along 
the glacier, commencing as a narrow streak, but to- 
wards the end the moraine extending in width, until 
finally it quite covers the terminal portion of the 
glacier. The cause of this is revealed by the fore- 
going measurements, which prove that a stone on the 
moraine where it is crossed by the line A approaches 
a second stone on the moraine where it is crossed 
by the line C with a velocity of twenty-six inches 
per one hundred hours. The moraine is in a state of 
longitudinal compression. Its materials are more 
and more squeezed together, and they must conse- 
quently move laterally and render the moraine at 
the terminal portion of the glacier wider than above. 

The motion of the Morteratsch glacier, then, 
diminishes as we descend. The maximum motion 


of the third line is thirty inches in one hundred 
hours, or seven inches a day — a very slow motion ; 
and had we run a line nearer to the end of the 
glacier, the motion would have been slower still. 
At the end itself it is nearly insensible. Now I 
submit that this is not the place to seek for the 
scooping power of a glacier. The opinion appears 
to be prevalent that it is the snout of a glacier that 
must act the part of ploughshare ; and it is certainly 
an erroneous opinion. The scooping power will 
exert itself most where the weight, and consequently 
(other things being equal) the motion, is greatest. A 
glacier's snout often rests upon matter which has 
been scooped from the glacier's bed higher up. I 
therefore do not think that the inspection of what 
the end of a glacier does or does not accomplish can 
decide* this question. 

The snout of a glacier is potent to remove any- 
thing against which it can fairly abut ; and this 
power, notwithstanding the slowness of the motion, 
manifests itself at the end of the Morteratsch glacier. 
A hillock, bearing pine-trees, was in front of the 
glacier when Mr. Hirst and myself inspected its end ; 
and this hillock is being bodily removed by the 
thrust of the ice. Several of the trees are over- 
turned ; and in a few years, if the glacier continues 
its reputed advance, the mound will certainly be 
ploughed away. 




1 will here record a few other measurements exe- 
cuted on the Rosegg glacier : the line was staked 
o ut across the trunk formed by the j unction of the 
Eosegg proper with the Tschierva glacier, a short 
distance below the rocky promontory called Agaliogs. 

Rosegg Glacier. 

S T o. of Stake 

Hourly Motion 


. 001 inch. 


. 0-05 „ 


. 0-07 „ 


. 0-10 „ 


. 041 „ 


. 0-13 „ 


• 0-14 „ 


. 0-18 „ 


• 0-24 „ 


. 0-23 „ 


. 024 „ 

This is an extremely slowly moving glacier ; the 
maximum hardly amounts to seven inches a day. 
Crevasses prevented us from continuing the line 
quite across the glacier. 

To return to the question of Alpine conformation : 
it stands, I think, thus : We have, in the first 
place, great valleys, such as those of the Rhine and 
the Rhone, which we might conveniently call valleys 
of the first order. The mountains which flank 
these main valleys are also cut by lateral valleys 
running into the main one, and which may be. 


called valleys of the second order. When these 
latter are examined, smaller valleys are found 
running into them, which may be called valleys 
of the third order. Smaller ravines and depressions, 
again, join the latter, which may be called valleys 
of the fourth order, and so on until we reach streaks 
and cuttings so minute as not to merit the name 
of valleys at all. At the bottom of every valley 
we have a stream, diminishing in magnitude as the 
order of the valley ascends, carving the earth and 
carrying its materials to lower levels. We find 
that the larger valleys have been filled for untold 
ages by glaciers of enormous dimensions, always 
moving, grinding down and tearing away the rocks 
over which they passed. We have, moreover, on 
the plains at the feet of the mountains, and in enor- 
mous quantities, the very matter derived from the 
sculpture of the mountains themselves. 

The plains of Italy and Switzerland are cumbered 
by the debris of the Alps. The lower, wider, and 
more level valleys are also filled to unknown depths 
with the materials derived from the higher ones. 
In the vast quantities of moraine-matter which 
cumber many even of the higher valleys we have 
also suggestions as to the magnitude of the erosion 
which has taken place. This moraine-matter, more- 
over, can only in small part have been derived from 
the falling of rocks upon the ancient glacier ; it is 


in great part derived from the grinding and the 
ploughing-out of the glacier itself. This accounts 
for the magnitude of many of the ancient moraines, 
which date from a period when almost all the moun- 
tains were covered with ice and snow, and when, 
consequently, the quantity of moraine-matter de- 
rived from the naked crests cannot have been 

The ero'sion theory ascribes the formation of 
Alpine valleys to the agencies here briefly referred 
to. It invokes nothing but true causes. Its ar- 
tificers are still there, though, it may be, in 
diminished strength ; and if they are granted 
sufficient time, it is demonstrable that they are 
competent to produce the effects ascribed to them. 
And what does the fracture theory offer in com- 
parison ? From no possible application of this 
theory, pure and simple, can we obtain the slopes 
and forms of the mountains. Erosion must in the 
long run be invoked, and its power therefore con- 
ceded. The fracture theory infers trom the disturb- 
ances of the Alps the existence of fissures ; and this 
is a probable inference. But that they were of a 
magnitude sufficient to determine the conformation 
of the Alps, and that they followed, as the Alpine 
valleys do, the lines of natural drainage of the 
country, are assumptions which do not appear to me 
to be justified either by reason or by observation. 

1864"] ALPINE SCULrTURE. 251 

There is a grandeur in the secular integration of 
small effects implied by the theory of erosion 
almost superior to that involved in the idea of 
a cataclysm. Think of the ages which must have 
been consumed in the execution of this colossal 
sculpture. The question may, of course, be pushed 
to further limits. Think of the ages which the 
molten earth required for its consolidation. But 
these vaster epochs lack sublimity through our in- 
ability to grasp them. They bewilder us, but they 
fail to make a solemn impression. The genesis of 
the mountains comes more within the scope of the 
intellect, and the majesty of the operation is en- 
hanced by our partial ability to conceive it. In the 
falling of a rock from a mountain-head, in the shoot 
of an avalanche, in the plunge of a cataract, we 
often see more impressive illustrations of the power 
of gravity than in the motions of the stars. When 
the intellect has to intervene, and calculation is 
necessary to the building up of the conception, the 
expansion of the feelings ceases to be proportional 
to the magnitude of the phenomena. 




In July 1865 my excellent friend Hirst and myself 
visited Glarus, intending, if circumstances favoured 
us, to climb the Todi. We had, however, some 
difficulty with the guides, and therefore gave the 
expedition up. Crossing the Klausen pass to Altdorf, 
we ascended the Grotthardt Strasse to Wasen, and 
went thence over the Susten pass to Gradmen, which 
we reached late at night. We halted for a moment 
at Stein, but the blossom of 1863 l was no longer 
there, and we did not tarry. On quitting Gradmen 
next morning I was accosted by a guide, who asked 
me whether I knew Professor Tyndall. ' He is 
killed, sir,' said the man — ' killed upon the Matter- 
horn.' I then listened to a somewhat detailed 
account of my own destruction, and soon gathered 
that, though the details were erroneous, something 
serious if not shocking had occurred. At Imhof the 
rumour became more consistent, and immediately 
afterwards the Matterhorn catastrophe was in every 

1 Page 167. 


mouth, and in all the newspapers. My friend and 
myself wandered on to Miirren, whence, after an 
ineffectual attempt to cross the Petersgrat, we went 
by Kandersteg and the Gremmi to Zermatt. 

Of the four sufferers on the Matterhorn one 
remained behind. But expressed in terms either of 
mental torture or physical pain, the suffering in my 
opinion was nil. Excitement during the first 
moments left no room for terror, and immediate 
unconsciousness prevented pain. No death has 
probably less of agony in it than that caused by the 
shock of gravity on a mountain-side. Expected, it 
would be terrible ; but- unexpected, not. I had 
heard, however, of other griefs and sufferings conse- 
quent on the accident, and this prompted a desire 
on my part to find the remaining one and bring 
him down. 

I had seen the road-makers at work between 
St. Nicholas and Zermatt, and was struck by the 
rapidity with which they pierced the rocks for 
blasting. One of these fellows could drive a hole a 
foot deep into hard granite in less than an hour. I 
was therefore determined to secure in aid of my 
project the services of a road-maker. None of the 
Zermatt guides would second me, but I found one 
of the Lochmatters of St. Nicholas willing to do so. 
Him I sent to Geneva to buy 3,000 feet of rope, 
which duly came on heavily laden mules to Zermatt e 


Hammers and steel punches were prepared ; a tent 
was put in order, and the whole was carried up to 
the chapel by the Schwarz See. But the weather 
would by no means smile upon the undertaking. I 
waited in Zermatt for twenty days, making excur- 
sions with pleasant friends, but they merely spanned 
the brief intervals which separated one rain-gush 
or thunderstorm from another. Bound by an en- 
gagement to my friend Professor De la Kive, of 
Geneva, where the Swiss naturalists had their annual 
assembly in 1865, I was forced to leave Zermatt. 
My notion was to climb to the point where the men 
slipped, and to fix there suitable irons in the rocks. 
By means of ropes attached to these I proposed to 
scour the mountain along the line of the glissade. 
There were peculiarities in the notion which need 
not now be dwelt upon, inasmuch as the weather 
rendered them all futile. 

[I am not sure that the proposed search is prac- 
ticable ; it would certainly require unusually good 
weather for its execution. — April 1871.] 

1866] THE TITLIS. 255 



In the summer of 1866 I first went to Engsteln, 
one of the most charming spots in the Alps. It had 
at that time a double charm, for the handsome 
young widow who kept the inn supplemented by her 
kindness and attention within doors the pleasures 
extracted from the outer world. A man named 
Maurer, of Meyringen, was my guide for a time. 
We climbed the Titlis, going straight up it from 
the Joch Pass, in the track of a scampering chamois 
which showed us the way. The Titlis is a very 
noble mass — one of the few which, while moderate 
in height, bear a lordly weight of snow. The view 
from the summit is exceedingly fine, and on it I 
repeated with a hand spectroscope the observations 
of M. Janssen on the absorption-bands of aqueous 
vapour. On the day after this ascent I quitted 
Engsteln, being drawn towards the Wellhorn and 
Wetterhorn, both of which, as seen from Engsteln, 
came out with inexpressible nobleness The upper 


dome of heaven was of the deepest blue, while only 
the faintest lightening of the colour towards the 
horizon indicated the augmented thickness of the 
atmosphere in that direction. The sun was very 
hot, but there was a clear rivulet at hand, deepening 
here and there into pebbled pools, into which I 
plunged at intervals, causing my guide surprise if 
not anxiety ; for he shared the common super- 
stition that plunging, when hot, into cold water is 
dangerous. The danger, and a very serious one it 
is, is to plunge into cold water when cold. The 
strongest alone can then bear immersion without 

This year I subjected the famous Finsteraarschlucht 
to a closer examination than ordinary. The earth- 
quake theory already adverted to was prevalent 
regarding it, and I wished to see whether any 
evidences existed of aqueous erosion. It will be 
remembered that the Schlucht or gorge is cut 
through a great barrier of limestone rock called the 
Kirchet, which throws itself across the valley of 
Hasli, about three-quarters of an hour's walk above 
Meyringen. The plain beyond the barrier, on which 
stands the hamlet of Imhof, is formed of the sedi- 
ment of a lake of which the Kirchet constituted the 
dam. This dam is now cut through for the passage 
of the Aar, forming one of the noblest gorges in 
Switzerland. Near the summit of the Kirchet is a 


house with a signboard inviting the traveller to visit 
the Aarenschlucht, a narrow lateral gorge which 
runs down to the very bottom of the principal one. 
The aspect of this smaller chasm from its bottom to 
its top proves to demonstration that water had in 
former ages worked there as a navigator. It is 
scooped, rounded, and polished, so as to render it 
palpable to the common eye that it is a gorge of 
erosion. But it was regarding the sides of the great 
chasm that I needed instruction, and from its edge 
I could see nothing to satisfy me. I therefore 
stripped and waded into the river until a point was 
reached which commanded an excellent view of both 
sides of the gorge. The water was cutting, but I 
was repaid. Below me on the left-hand side was 
a jutting cliff, which bore the thrust of the river 
and caused the Aar to swerve from its direct course. 
From top to bottom this cliff was polished, rounded, 
and scooped. There was no room for doubt. The 
river which now runs so deeply down had once been 
above. It has been the delver of its own channel 
through the barrier of the Kirchet. 

I went on to Eosenlaui, proposing to climb the 
neighbouring mountains in succession. In fact I 
went to Switzerland in 1866 with a particular 
hunger for the heights. But the weather thickened 
before Eosenlaui was reached, and on the night fol- 
lowing the morning of my departure from Engsteln 


I lay upon my plaid under an impervious pine, and 
watched as wild a thunderstorm and as heavy a 
downpour of rain as I had ever seen. Most extra- 
ordinary was the flicker on cliffs and trees, and most 
tremendous was the detonation succeeding each 
discharge. The fine weather came thus to an end, 
and next day I gave up the Wetterhorn for the 
ignoble Faulhorn. Here the wind changed, the air 
became piercingly cold, and on the following morn- 
ing heavy snow-drifts buttressed the doors, windows, 
and walls of the inn. We broke away, sinking at 
some places to the hips in snow. A descent of a 
thousand feet carried us from the bleakest winter 
into genial summer. My companion held on to the 
beaten track, while I sought a rougher and more 
direct one to the Scheinigeplatte, a resting-place 
which commands a noble view of the precipices of 
the Jungfrau. We were solitary visitors there, and 
I filled the evening with Miss Thackeray's ' Story 
of Elizabeth,' which some benevolent traveller had 
left at the hotel. 

Thence we dropped down to Lauterbrunnen, went 
up the valley to the little inn at Trechslawinen, and 
crossed the Petersgrat the following day. The 
recent precipitation had cleared the heavens and re- 
loaded the heights. It was, perhaps, the splendour 
of the weather and the purity of the snows, aided 
by the subjective effect due to contrast with a series 

1866] TETERSGRAT. 259 

of most dismal days, that made me think the Peters- 
grat so noble a standpoint for a view of the moun- 
tains. The horizontal extent was vast, and the 
grouping magnificent. The undoubted monarch of 
this unparagoned scene was the Weisshorn, and this 
may have rendered me partial in my judgment, for 
men like to see what they love exalted. At Platten 
we found shelter in the house of the cure. Next 
day we crossed the Lotschsattel, and swept round by 
the Aletsch glacier to the ^Eggischhorn. 

Here I had the pleasure of meeting a very ardent 
climber, who entertains peculiar notions regarding 
guides. He deems them, and rightly so, very ex- 
pensive, and he also feels pleasure in trying his own 
powers. Very likely it is my habit of going alone 
that causes me to sympathise with him. I would, 
however, admonish him that he may go too far in 
this direction, and probably his own experience has 
by this time forestalled the admonition. Still, if 
skill, strength, and self-reliance are things to be 
cultivated in the Alps, they are, within certain 
limits, best exercised and developed in the absence 
of guides. And if the real climbers are ever to be 
differentiated from the crowd who write and talk 
about the mountains^ it is only to be done by dis- 
pensing with professional assistance. But no man 
without natural aptitude and due training would be 
justified in committing himself to ventures of this 


kind, and it is an error to suppose that the necessary 
knowledge can be obtained in one or two summers 
in the Alps. Climbing is an art, and those who 
wish to cultivate it on their own account ought to 
give themselves sufficient previous practice in the 
company of first-rate guides. Here, moreover, as 
in every other sphere of human action, whether 
intellectual or physical, as indeed among the guides 
themselves, real eminence falls only to the lot of 
few. Whatever be the amount of preparation, real 
climbers must still remain select men. 

From the Bel Alp, Mr. Grirdlestone and I, without 
any guide, made an attack upon the Aletschhorn. 
We failed. The weather as we started was unde- 
cided, but we hoped the turn might be in our 
favour. We first kept along the Alp, with the Jaggi 
glacier to our right, then crossed its moraine, and 
made the trunk glacier our highway until we 
reached the point of confluence of its branches. 
Here we turned to the right, the Aletschhorn, from 
base to summit, coming into view. We reached 
the true base of the mountain, and without halting 
breasted its snow. But as we climbed the atmo- 
sphere thickened more and more. About the Nest- 
horn the horizon deepened to pitchy darkness, and 
on the Aletschhorn itself hung a cloud, which we at 
first hoped would melt before the strengthening sun, 
but which instead of melting became denser. Now 

1866] ITALIAN LAKES. 261 

and then an echoing rumble of the wind warned us 
that we might expect rough handling above. We 
persisted, however, and reached a considerable 
height, unwilling to admit that the weather was 
against us, until a more savage roar and a ruder 
shake than ordinary caused us to halt, and look 
more earnestly and anxiously into the darkening 
atmosphere. We were forced to give in, and during 
our descent the air was thick and dark with falling 
snow. Holding on in the dimness to the medial 
moraine, we managed to get down the glacier, and 
to clear it at a practicable point, whence, guided 
by the cliffs which flanked our right, and which 
became visible only when we came almost into 
contact with them, we hit the proper track to the 
Bel Alp hotel. 

Though my visits to the Alps had already numbered 
thirteen, I had never gone so far southward as the 
Italian lakes. The perfectly unmanageable weather 
of July 1866 caused me to cross with Mr. Girdlestone 
into Italy, in the hope that a respite of ten or 
twelve days might improve the temper of the 
mountains. We walked over the Simplon to the 
village of the same name, and took thence the 
diligence to Domo d'Ossola and Baveno. The at- 
mospheric change was wonderful ; and still the 
clear air which we enjoyed below was the self-same 
air that heaped clouds aud snow upon the mountains, 



It came across the heated plains of Lombard} 
charged with moisture, but the moisture was 
in the transparent condition of true vapour, and 
hence invisible. Tilted by the mountains, the air 
rose, and as it expanded it became chilled, and as it 
became chilled it discharged its vapour as visible 
cloud, the globules of which swelled by coalescence 
into raindrops on the mountain-flanks, or were 
frozen to snow upon the mountain-heads. 

We halted on the margin of the Lago Maggiore 
I could hear the lisping of the waters on the shingle 
far into the night. My window looked eastward, 
and through it could be seen the first warming of 
the sky at the approach of dawn. I rose, and 
watched the growth of colour all along the east. 
The mountains, from mere masses of darkness pro- 
jected against the heavens, became empurpled. It 
was not as a mere wash of colour overspreading 
their surfaces. They blent with the atmosphere as 
if they were part and parcel of the general purple of 
the air. Nobody was stirring at the time, and the 
6 lap ' of the lake upon its shore only increased the 
sense of silence. 

The holy hour was qiL et as a nun 
Breathless with adoration. 

In my subsequent experience of the Italian lakes 
I met with nothing which affected me so deeply as 
this morning scene on the Lago Maggiore. 

,800] MILAN AND COMO. 263 

From Baveno we crossed the lake to Luino, and 
went thence to Lugano. At Belaggio, on the junc- 
tion of the two branches of the Lake of Como, we 
halted a couple of days. Como itself we reached in 
a small sailing-boat, as a storm prevented the steamer 
from taking us. There we saw the statue of Volta 
— a prophet justly honoured in his own country. 
From Como we went to Milan. A climber, of course, 
could not forego the pleasure of looking at Monte 
Rosa from the cathedral roof. The distribution of 
the statues magnified the apparent vastness of the 
pile ; still the impression made on me by this great 
edifice was one of disappointment. Its front seemed 
to illustrate an attempt to cover meanness of concep 
tion by profusion of adornment. The interior, how- 
ever, notwithstanding the cheat of the ceiling, is 
exceedingly grand. 

From Milan we went to Orta, where we had a 
plunge into the lake. We crossed it subsequently, 
and walked on to Varallo : thence by Fobello over a 
country of noble beauty to Ponte Grande in the Val 
Ansasca. Thence again by Macugnaga, over the 
deep snow of the Monte Moro, reaching Mattmark 
in drenching rain. The temper of the northern 
slopes did not appear to have improved during our 
absence. We returned to the Bel Alp, fitful 
triumphs of the sun causing us to hope that we might 
still have fair play upon the Aletschhorn. But the day 


after our arrival snow fell so heavily as to cover the 
pastures for 2,000 feet below the hotel. Partial 
famine among the herds was the consequence. They 
had eventually to be driven below the snow- line. 
Avalanches were not unfrequent on slopes which 
a day or two previously had been covered with 
grass and flowers. In this condition of things 
Mr. Milman, Mr. Grirdlestone, and I climbed the 
Sparrenhorn, and found its heavy-laden Kamm 
almost as hard as that of Monte Eosa. Occupation 
out of doors was, however, insufficient to fill the 
mind, so I wound my plaid around my loins, and in 
my cold bedroom studied ' Mozley upon Miraelen. 





Grinpelwald was my first halting-place in the 
summer of 1867 : I reached it, in company with a 
friend, on Sunday evening the 7th of July. The 
air of the glaciers and the excellent little dinners 
of the x\dler rendered me rapidly fit for mountain- 
work. The first day we made an excursion along 
the lower glacier to the Kastenstein, crossing, in re- 
turning, the Strahleck branch of the glacier above 
the ice-fall, and coming down by the Zasenberg. 
The second day was spent upon the upper glacier. 
The sunset covered the crest of the Eiger with 
indescribable glory that evening. It gave defini- 
tion to a vague desire I had previously entertained 
to climb the mountain, and I forthwith arranged 
with excellent old Christian Michel, and w T ith Peter 
Baumann, the preliminaries of the ascent. 

At half-past one o'clock on the morning of the 
1 1 th we started from the Wengern Alp ; no trace of 
cloud was visible in the heavens, which were sown 
broadcast with stars. Those low down twinkled 
with extraordinary vivacity, many of them flashing 


lights of different colours. When an opera-glass 
was pointed to such a star, and shaken, the line of 
light described by the image of the star resolved 
itself into a string of richly coloured beads : rubies 
and emeralds hung thus together on the same curve. 
The dark intervals between the beads corresponded 
to the moments of extinction of the star. Over the 
summit of the Wetterhorn the Pleiades hung like a 
diadem, while at intervals a solitary meteor shot, 
across the sky. 

We passed along the Alp, and then over the balled 
snow and broken ice cast down a glacier which 
fronted us. Here the ascent began ; we passed from 
snow to rock and from rock to snow by turns. The 
steepness for a time was moderate, the only thing 
requiring caution being the thin crusts of ice upon 
the rocks over which water had trickled the previous 
day. The east gradually brightened, the stars be- 
come paler and disappeared, and at length the crown 
of the adjacent Jungfrau rose out of the twilight 
into the rose of the sun. The bloom crept gradually 
downwards over the snows. At length the whole 
mountain-world partook of the colour. It is not in 
the night nor in the day — it is not in any statical 
condition of the atmosphere — that the mountains 
look most sublime. It is during the few minutes 
of transition from twilight to full day through the 
splendours of the dawn. 

1867] ASCENT OF THE EI6EE. 267 

Seven hours' climbing brought us to the higher 
slopes, which were for the most part ice, and re- 
quired deep step-cutting. The whole duty of tae 
climber on such slopes is to cut his steps properly, 
and to stand in them securely. At one period of my 
mountain life I looked lightly on the possibility of 
a slip, having full faith in the resources of him who 
accompanied me, and very little doubt of my own. 
Experience hat> qualified this faith in the power even 
of the best of climbers upon a steep ice-slope. A 
slip under such circumstances must not occur. 

The Jungfrau began her cannonade very early, 
five avalanches having thundered down her pre- 
cipices before eight o'clock in the morning. Bau- 
man, being the youngest man, undertook the labour 
of step-cutting, which the hardness of the ice ren- 
dered severe. He was glad from time to time to 
escape to the snow-cornice which, unsupported save 
by its own tenacity, overhung the Grindelwald side 
of the mountain, checking himself at intervals by 
looking over the edge of the cornice, to assure him- 
self that its strength was sufficient to bear our 
weight. A wilder precipice is hardly to be seen 
than this wall of the Eiger, viewed from the cornice 
at its top. It seems to drop sheer for eight thou- 
sand feet down to Grrindelwald. When the cornice 
became unsafe, the guide retreated, and step-cutting 
recommenced. We reached the summit before nine 


o'clock, and had from it an outlook over as glorious 
a scene as this world perhaps affords. 

On the following day I went down to Lauter- 
brunnen, and afterwards crossed the Petersgrat to 
Platten, where, the door of the cure being closed 
against travellers, we were forced into dirty quarters 
in an adjacent house. From Platten, instead of going 
as before over the Lotschsattel, we struck obliquely 
across the ridge above the Nesthorn, and got down 
upon the Jaggi glacier, making thus an exceedingly 
fine excursion from Platten to the Bel Alp. Thence, 
after a day's halt, I pushed on to Zermatt. 

I have already mentioned Carrel, the bersaglier, 
who accompanied Bennen and myself in our attempt 
upon the Matterhorn in 1862, and who in 1865 
reached the summit of the mountain. With him 
I had been in correspondence for some time, and 
from his letters an enthusiastic desire to be my 
guide up the Matterhorn might be inferred. From 
the Eiffelberg I crossed the Theodule to Breuil, 
where I saw Carrel. He had naturally and de- 
servedly grown in his own estimation. But I 
was discomfited by the form his self-consciousness 
assumed. His demands were exorbitant, and he 
also objected to the excellent company of Christian 
Michel. In fact my friend Carrel was no longer 
a reasonable mam I believe he afterwards felt 

1867] THE TRIFT PASS. 269 

ashamed of himself, and sent his friends Bich and 
Meynet to speak to me while he kept aloof. But 
the weather was then too bad to permit of any 
definite arrangement being made. 

I waited at the Eiffel for twelve days, making 
small excursions here and there. But, though the 
weather was not so abominable as it had been in the 
previous year, the frequent snow-discharges on the 
Matterhorn kept it unassailable. In company with 
Mr. Crawfurd Grove, who had engaged Carrel as his 
guide, Michel being mine, I made the pass of the 
Trift from Zermatt to Zinal. I could understand 
and share the enthusiasm experienced by Mr. Hinch- 
liff in crossing this truly noble pass. It is certainly 
one of the finest in the whole Alps. For that one 
day, moreover, the weather was magnificent. Next 
day we crossed to Evolena, going considerably astray, 
and thus converting a light day into a rather heavy 
one. From Evolena we purposed crossing the Col 
d'Erin back to Zermatt, but the weather would not 
let us. This excursion had been made with the view 
of allowing the Matterhorn a little time to arrange 
its temper ; but the temper continued sulky, and at 
length wearied me out. We went round by the 
valley of the Khone to Zermatt, and, finding matters 
worse than ever, both Mr. Grove and myself returned 
to Visp, intending to quit Switzerland altogether. 
Here he changed his mind and returned to Zermatt ; 


on the same day the weather changed also, and 
continued fine for a fortnight. He succeeded in 
getting with Carrel to the top of the Matterhorn, 
and I succeeded in joining the British Association 
at Dundee. A ramble in the Highlands, including 
a visit to the Parallel Eoads of Glenroy, concludad 
my vacation in 1867. 





The oil of life burnt rather low with me in 1868. 
Driven from London by Dr. Bence Jones, I reached 
the Giessbach hotel on the Lake of Brientz early 
in July. No pleasanter position could be found for 
an invalid. My friend Hirst was with me, and we 
made various little excursions in the neighbourhood. 
The most pleasant of these was to the Hinterburger 
See, a small and lonely lake high up among the 
hills, fringed on one side by pines, and overshadowed 
on the other by the massive limestone buttresses of 
the Hinterburg. It is an exceedingly lovely spot, 
but rarely visited. The Griessbach hotel is an 
admirably organised establishment. The table is 
served by Swiss girls in Swiss costume, fresh, 
handsome, and modest, well brought up, who come 
there, not as servants, but to learn the mysteries of 
housekeeping. And among her maidens moved like 
a little queen the daughter of the host — noiseless, 
but effectual in her rule and governance. I went 
to the Giessbach with a prejudice against the 


illumination of the fall. The crowd of spectators 
may suggest the theatre, but the lighting up of the 
water is fine. I liked the colourless light best ; it 
merely intensified the contrast revealed by ordinary 
daylight between the white foam of the cascades 
and the black surrounding pines. 

From the Griessbach we went to Thun, and thence 
up the Simmenthal to Lenk. Over the sulphur spring 
a large hotel has been recently erected, and here we 
found a number of Swiss and Germans, who thought 
the waters did them good. In one large room the 
liquid gushes from a tap into a basin, diffusing 
through the place the odour of rotten eggs. The 
patients like this smell ; indeed they regard its 
foulness as a measure of their benefit. The director 
of the establishment is intelligent and obliging, 
sparing no pains to meet the wishes and promote 
the comfort of his guests. We wandered while at 
Lenk to the summit of the Eawyl pass, visited the 
Siebenbriinnen, where the river Simmen bursts full- 
grown from the rocks, and we should have clambered 
up the Wildstrubel had the weather been tolerable. 
From Lenk we went to Gsteig, a finely situated 
hamlet, but not celebrated for the peace and com- 
fort of its inn ; and from Gsteig to the Diablerets 
hotel. While there I clambered up the Diablerets 
mountain, and was amazed at the extent of the 
snow-field upon its tabular top. The peaks, if they 


ever existed, have been shorn away, and miles of 
flat neve, unseen from below, overspread their 

From the Diablerets we drove down to Aigle. 
The Traubenkur had not commenced, and there 
was therefore ample space for us at the excellent 
hotel. We were compelled to spend a night at 
Marti gny. I heard the trumpet of its famous 
mosquito, but did not feel its attacks. The follow- 
ing night was more pleasantly spent on the cool col 
of the Great St. Bernard. On Tuesday, July 21, 
we reached Aosta, and, in accordance with previous 
telegraphic arrangement, met there the Chanoine 
Carrel. Jean-Jacques Carrel, the old companion of 
Mr. Hawkins and myself, and others at Breuil, were 
dissatisfied with the behaviour of the bersaglier last 
year, and this feeling the Chanoine shared. He had 
written to me during the winter, stating that two 
new men had scaled the Matterhorn, and that they 
were ready to accompany me anywhere. He now 
drove, with Hirst and myself, to Chatillon, where at 
the noisy and comfortless inn we spent the night. 
Here Hirst quitted me, and I turned with the 
Chanoine up the valley to Breuil. 

At Val Tournanche I saw a maiden niece of the 
Chanoine who had gone high up the Matterhorn, and 
who, had the wind not assailed her petticoats too 
roughly, might, it was said, have reached the top. 


I can believe it. Her wrist was like a weaver's beam, 
and her frame seemed a mass of potential energy. 
The Chanoine had recommended to me as guides 
the brothers Joseph and Pierre Maquignaz, of Val 
Tournanche, his praises of Joseph as a man of un- 
shaken coolness, courage, and capacity as a climber 
being particularly strong. Previous to reaching 
Breuil, I saw this Joseph, who seemed to divine by 
instinct my name and aim. 

Carrel was at Breuil, looking very dark , Bich pe- 
titioned for a porter's post, blaming Carrel bitterly 
for his greed in the previous year ; but I left the 
arrangement of these matters wholly in the hands 
of Maquignaz. He joined me in the evening, and 
on the following day we ascended one of the neigh- 
bouring summits, discussing as we went our chances 
on the Matterhorn. In 1867 the chief precipitation 
took place in a low atmospheric layer, the base of 
the mountain being heavily laden with snow, while 
the summit and the higher rocks were bare. In 
1868 the distribution was inverted, the top being 
heavily laden and the lower rocks clear. An addi- 
tional element of uncertainty was thus introduced. 
Maquignaz could not say what obstacles the snow 
might oppose to us above, but he was resolute and 
hopeful. My desire was to finish for ever my contest 
with the Matterhorn by making a pass over its sum- 
mit from Breuil to Zermatt. In this attempt my 


guide expressed bis willingness to join me, his inter- 
est in the project being apparently equal to my own. 

He, however, only knew the Zermatt side of the 
mountain through inspection from below ; and he 
acknowledged that a dread of it had filled him the 
previous year. He now reasoned, however, that as 
Mr. Whymper and the Taugwalds had managed to 
descend, we ought to be able to do the same. On 
the Friday we climbed to the Col de la Furka, 
examined from it the northern face of the pyramid, 
and discovered the men who were engaged in building 
the cabin on that side. We worked afterwards along 
the ridge which stretches from the Matterhorn to 
the Theodule, crossing its gulleys and scaling all its 
heights. It was a pleasant piece of discipline, on 
new ground, to both my guide and me. 

On the Thursday evening a violent thunderstorm 
had burst over Breuil, discharging new snow upon 
the heights, but also clearing the oppressive air. 
Though the heavens seemed clear in the early part 
of Friday, clouds showed a disposition to meet us 
from the south' as we returned from the col. I 
enquired of my companion whether, in the event 
of the day being fine, he would be ready to start on 
Sunday. His answer was a prompt negative. In 
Val Tournanche, he said, they always 'sanctified the 
Sunday.' I mentioned Bennen, my pious Catholic 
guide, whom I permitted and encouraged to attend 


his mass on all possible occasions, but who, never- 
theless, always yielded without a murmur to the 
demands of the weather. The reasoning had its 
effect. On Saturday Maquignaz saw his confessor, 
and arranged with him to have a mass at 2 a.m. on 
Sunday ; after which, unshaded by the sense of 
duties unperformed, he would commence the ascent. 

The claims of religion being thus met, the point 
of next importance, that of money, was set at rest 
by my immediate acceptance of the tariff published 
by the Chanoine Carrel. The problem being thus 
reduced to one of muscular physics, we pondered 
the question of provisions, decided on a bill of fare, 
and committed its execution to the industrious 
mistress of the hotel. 

A fog, impenetrable to vision, had filled the whole 
of the Val Tournanche on Saturday night, and the 
mountains were half concealed and half revealed by 
this fog when we rose on Sunday morning. The 
east at sunrise was louring, and the light which 
streamed through the cloud orifices was drawn in 
ominous red bars across the necks of the mountains. 
It was one of those uncomfortable Laodicean days 
which engender indecision — threatening, but not 
sufficiently so to warrant postponement. Two guides 
and two porters were considered necessary for the 
first day's climb. A volunteer, moreover, attached 
hirnseli to our party, who carried a sheepskin as part 


of the furniture of the cabin. To lighten their 
labour, the porters took a mule with them as far as 
the quadruped could climb, and afterwards divided 
the load among themselves. While they did so I 
observed the weather. The sun had risen with con- 
siderable power, and had broken the cloud-plane 
to pieces. The severed clouds gathered into masses 
more or less spherical, and were rolled grandly over 
the ridges into Switzerland. Save for a swathe of 
fog which now and then wrapped its flanks, the 
Matterhorn itself remained clear, and strong hopes 
were raised that the progress of the weather was in 
the right direction. 

We halted at the base of the Tete du Lion, a bold 
precipice formed by the sudden cutting down of the 
ridge which flanks the Val Tournanche to the right. 
From its base to the Matterhorn stretches the Col 
du Lion, crossed for the first time in 1860, by Mr. 
Hawkins, myself, and our two guides. We were now 
beside a snow-gulley, which was cut by a deep furrow 
along its centre, and otherwise scarred by the descent 
of stones. Here each man arranged his bundle and 
himself so as to cross the guiley in the minimum of 
time. The passage was safely made, a few flying 
shingle only coming down upon us. But danger 
declared itself where it was not expected. Joseph 
Maquignaz led the way up the rocks. I was next, 
Pierre Maquignaz next, and last of all the porters. 



Suddenly a yell issued from the leader : ' Cachez- 
vous ! ' I crouched instinctively against the rock, 
which formed a by no means perfect shelter, when a 
boulder buzzed past me through the air, smote the 
rocks below me, and with a savage hum flew down to 
the lower glacier. Thus warned, we swerved to an 
arete, and when stones fell afterwards they plunged 
to the right or left of us. 

In 1860 the great couloir which stretches from 
the Col du Lion downwards was filled with a neve oi 
deep snow. But the atmospheric conditions which 
have caused the glaciers of Switzerland to shrink so 
remarkably during the last ten years x have swept 
away this neve. We had descended it in I860 
hip-deep in snow, and I was now reminded of its 
steepness by the inclination of its bed. Maquignaz 
was incredulous when I pointed out to him the line 
of descent to which we had been committed, in order 
to avoid the falling stones of the Tete du Lion. 
Bennen's warnings on the occasion were very em- 
phatic, and I could understand their wisdom now 
better than I did them. 

When Mr. Hawkins and myself first tried the 

1 I should estimate the level of the Lower Grimlelwalcl glacier, at 
the point where it is usually entered upon to reach the Eismeer, to 
be nearly one hundred feet vertically lower in 1867 than it was in 
1856. I am glad to find that the question of ' Benchmarks ' to fix 
ruch changes of level is now before the Council of the British 


Matterliorn, a temporary danger, sufficient to quel] 
for a time the enthusiasm even of our lion-hearted 
guide, was added to the permanent ones. Fresh 
snow had fallen two days before ; it had quite over- 
sprinkled the Matterhorn, converting the brown of 
its crags into an iron-grey ; this snow had been 
melted and refrozen, forming upon the rocks an 
enamelling of ice. Besides their physical front, 
moreover, in 1860, the rocks presented a psycho- 
logical one, derived from the rumour of their savage 
inaccessibility. The crags, the ice, and the character 
of the mountain, all conspired to stir the feelings. 
Much of the wild mystery has now vanished, espe- 
cially at those points which in 1860 were places oi 
virgin difficulty, but down which ropes now hang to 
assist the climber. The intrinsic grandeur of the 
Matterhorn, however, cannot be effaced. 

After some hours of steady climbing we halted 
upon a platform beside the tattered remnant of one 
of the tents employed by me in 1862. Here we 
sunned ourselves for an hour. We subsequently 
worked upward, scaling the crags and rounding the 
bases of those wild and wonderful rock-towers, into 
which the weather of ages has hewn the southern 
ridge of the Matterhorn. The work required know- 
ledge, but with a fair amount of skill it is safe work. 
I can fancy nothing more fascinating to a man given 
by nature and habit to such things than a climb 


alone among these crags and precipices. He need 
not be theological^ but, if complete, the grandeur of 
the place would certainly fill him with religious awe. 

Looked at from Breuil, the Matterhorn presents 
two summits — the one, the summit proper, a square 
rock-tower in appearance ; the other, which is really 
the end of a sharp ridge abutting against the rock- 
tower, an apparently conical peak. On this peak 
Bennen and myself planted our flagstaff in 1862. 
At some distance below it the mountain is crossed by 
an almost horizontal ledge, always loaded with snow, 
which, from its resemblance to a white necktie, has 
been called the Cravate. On this ledge a cabin w T as 
put together in 1867. It stands above the precipice 
where I quitted my rope in 1862. Up this precipice, 
by the aid of a thicker — I will not say a stronger — 
rope, we now scrambled, and, following the exact 
route pursued by Bennen and myself five years 
previously, we came to the end of the Cravate. At 
some places the snow upon the ledge fell steeply 
from its junction with the cliff; deep step-cutting 
was also needed where the substance had been melted 
and recongealed. The passage, however, was soon 
accomplished along the Cravate to the cabin, which 
was almost filled with snow. 

Our first need was water. We could, of course, 
always melt the snow, but this would involve a 
wasteful expenditure of heat. The cliff at the base 


of whicli the hut was built, overhung, and from its 
edge the liquefied snow fell in showers beyond the 
cabin. Four ice-axes were fixed on the ledge, and 
over them was spread the residue of a second tent 
which I had left at Breuil in 1862. The water 
falling upon the canvas flowed towards its centre. 
Here an orifice was made, through which the 
liquid descended into vessels placed to receive it. 
Some modification of this plan might probably be 
employed with profit for the storing-up of water for 
droughty years in England. 

I lay for some hours in the warm sunshine, in 
presence of the Italian mountains, watching the 
mutations of the air. But when the sun sank the 
air became chill, and we all retired to the cabin. 
We had no fire, though warmth was much needed. 
A lover of the mountains, and of his kind, had 
contributed an india-rubber mattrass, on which I 
lay down, a light blanket being thrown over me, 
while the guides and porters were rolled up in 
sheepskins. The mattrass was a poor defence against 
the cold of the subjacent rock. I bore this for two 
hours, unwilling to disturb the guides, but at 
length it became intolerable. On learning my 
condition, however, the good fellows were soon 
alert, and, folding a sheepskin round me, restored 
me gradually to a pleasant temperature. I fell 
asleep, and found the guides preparing breakfast, 


and the morning well advanced, when I opened my 

It was past six o'clock when the two brother's 
and I quitted the cabin. The porters deemed 
their work accomplished, but they halted for a 
time to ascertain whether we were likely to be 
driven back or to push forward. We skirted the 
Cravate, and reached the ridge at its western 
extremity. This we ascended along the old route 
of Bennen and myself to the conical peak already 
referred to, which, as seen from Breuil, constitutes 
a kind of second summit of the Matterhorn. From 
this point to the base of the final precipice of the 
mountain stretches an arete, terribly hacked by the 
weather, but on the whole horizontal. When I 
first made the acquaintance of this savage ridge — 
called by Italians the Spalla — it was almost clear of 
snow. It was now loaded, the snow being bevelled 
to an edge of exceeding sharpness. The slope to 
the left, falling towards Zmutt, was exceedingly 
steep, while the precipices on the right were abysmal. 
No other part of the Matterhorn do I remember 
with greater interest than this. It was terrible, 
but its difficulties were fairly within the grasp of 
human skill, and this association is more ennobling 
than where the circumstances are such as to make 
you conscious of your own helplessness. On one of 
the sharpest teeth of the ridge Joseph Maquignaz 


halted, and, turning to me with a smile, remarked, 
' There is no room for giddiness here, sir.' In fact, 
such possibilities, in such places, must be alto- 
gether excluded from the chapter of accidents of the 

It was at the end of this ridge, where it abuts 
against the last precipice of the Matterhorn, that 
my second flagstaff was left in 1862. I think there 
must have been something in the light falling upon 
this precipice that gave it an aspect of greater 
verticality when I first saw it than it seemed to 
possess on the present occasion. We had, however, 
been struggling for many hours previously, and may 
have been dazed by our exertion. I cannot other- 
wise account for three of my party declining flatly 
to make any attempt upon the precipice. It looks 
very bad, but no real climber with his strength 
unimpaired would pronounce it, without trial, in- 
superable. Fears of this rock-wall, however, had been 
excited long before we reached it. It was probably 
the addition of the psychological element to the 
physical — the reluctance to encounter new dangers 
on a mountain which had hitherto inspired a super- 
stitious fear — that quelled further exertion. 

Seven hundred feet, if the barometic measurement 
can be trusted, of very difficult rock-work now lay 
above us. In 1862 this height had been under- 
estimated by both Bennen and myself Of the 


14,800 feet of the Matterkorn, we then thought we 
had accomplished 14,600. If the barometer speaks 
truly, we had only cleared 14,200. 

Descending the end of the ridge, we crossed a 
narrow cleft, and grappled with the rocks at the 
other side of it. Our ascent was oblique, bearing 
to the right. The obliquity at one place fell to 
horizontality, and we had to work on the level 
round a difficult protuberance of rock. We cleared 
the difficulty without haste, and then rose straight 
against the precipice. Above us a rope hung down 
the cliff, left there by Maquignaz on the occasion 
of his first ascent. We reached the end of this rope, 
and some time was lost by my guide in assuring 
himself that it was not too much frayed by friction. 
Care in testing it was doubly necessary, for the 
rocks, bad in themselves, were here crusted with ice. 
The rope was in some places a mere hempen core 
surrounded by a casing of ice, over which the hands 
slid helplessly. Even with the aid of the rope in this 
condition it required an effort to get to the top of 
the precipice, and we willingly halted there to take 
a minute's breath. The ascent was virtually accom- 
plished, and a few minutes more of rapid climbing 
placed us on the lightning-smitten top. Thus ended 
the long: contest between me and the Matterhorn. 

The day thus far had swung through alternations 
of fog and sunshine. While we were on the ridge 


below, the air at times was blank and chill with 
mist ; then with rapid solution the cloud would 
vanish, and open up the abysses right and left of us. 
On our attaining the summit a fog from Italy 
rolled over us, and for some minutes we were clasped 
by a cold and clammy atmosphere. But this passed 
rapidly away, leaving above us a blue heaven, and 
far below us the sunny meadows of Zermatt. The 
mountains were almost wholly unclouded, and such 
clouds as lingered amongst them only added to 
their magnificence. The Dent d'Erin, the Dent 
Blanche, the Grabelhorn, the Mischabel, the range 
of heights between it and Monte Rosa, the Lyskamm, 
and the Breithorn were all at hand, and clear ; 
while the Weisshorn, noblest and most beautiful of 
all, shook out a banner towards the north, formed 
by the humid southern air as it grazed the crest of 
the mountain. 

The world of peaks and glaciers surrounding this 
immediate circlet of giants was also open to us up 
to the horizon. Our glance over it was brief, for it 
was eleven o'clock, and the work before us soon 
claimed all our attention. I found the debris of 
my former expedition everywhere — below, the 
fragments of my tents, and on the top a piece of 
my ladder fixed in the snow as a flagstaff. The 
summit of the Matterhorn is a sharp horizontal 
arete, and along this we now moved eastward. On 


our left was the roof-like slope of snow seen from 
the Riffel and Zermatt ; on our right were the 
savage precipices which fall into Italy. Looking to 
the further end of the ridge, the snow there seemed 
to be trodden down, and I drew my companions 1 
attention to the apparent footmarks. As we ap- 
proached the place it became evident that human 
feet had been there two or three days previously. 
I think it was Mr. Elliot of Brighton 1 who had 
made this ascent — the first accomplished from 
Zermatt since 1865. On the eastern end of the 
ridge we halted to take a little food — not that I 
seemed to need it : it was the remonstrance of 
reason rather than the consciousness of physical 
want that caused me to do so. 

We took our ounce of nutriment and gulp of 
wine (my only sustenance during the entire day), 
and stood for a moment silently and earnestly 
looking down towards Zermatt. There was a cer- 
tain official formality in the manner in which the 


guides turned to me and asked, ' Etes-vous content 
d'essayer ? ' A sharp responsive ' Oui ! ' set us im- 
mediately in motion. It was nearly half-past eleven 
when we quitted the summit. The descent of the 
roof-like slope already referred to offered no diffi- 
culty ; but the gradient very soon became more 

1 Killed in 1S69 upon the Sclireckhorn. 


One of the two faces of the Matterhorn pyramid, 
seen from Zermatt, falls towards the Zmutt glacier, 
and has a well-known snow-plateau at its base. The 
other face falls towards the Furgge glacier. We were 
on the former. For some time, however, we kept 
close to the arete formed by the intersection of the 
two faces of the pyramid, because nodules of rock jutted 
from it which offered a kind of footing. These rock 
protuberances helped us in another way : round them 
an extra rope which we carried was frequently doubled, 
and we let ourselves down by the rope as far as it 
could reach, liberating it afterwards (sometimes with 
difficulty) by a succession of jerks. In the choice 
and use of these protuberances the guides showed both 
judgment and skill. The rocks became gradually 
larger and more precipitous, a good deal of time 
being consumed in dropping down and doubling round 
them. Still we preferred them to the snow-slope at 
our left as long as they continued practicable. 

This they at length ceased to be, and we had to 
commit ourselves to the slope. It was in the worst 
possible condition. When snow first falls at these 
great heights it is usually dry, and has no coherence. 
It resembles, to some extent, flour, or sand, or saw- 
dust. Shone upon by a strong sun it partly melts, 
shrinks, and becomes more consolidated, and when 
subsequently frozen it may be safely trusted. Even 
though the melting of the snow and its subsequent 


freezing may be only very partial, the cementing of 
the granules adds immensely to the safety of the 
footing. Hence the advantage of descending such a 
slope before the sun has had time to unlock the 
rigidity of the night's frost. But we were on the 
steepest Matterhorn slope during the two hottest 
Hours of the day, and the sun had done his work 
effectually. The layer of snow was about fifteen 
inches thick. In treading it we came immediately 
upon the rock, which in most cases was too 
smooth to furnish either prop or purchase. It was 
on this slope that the Matterhorn catastrophe oc- 
curred : it is on this slope that other catastrophes 
will occur, if this mountain should ever become 

Joseph Maquignaz was the leader of our little 
party, and a brave, cool, and competent leader he 
proved himself to be. He was silent, save when he 
answered his brother's anxious and oft-repeated 
question, ' Es-tu bien place, Joseph ? ' Along with 
being perfectly cool and brave, he seemed to be 
perfectly truthful. He did not pretend to be 6 bien 
place ' when he was not, nor avow a power of hold- 
ing which he knew he did not possess. Pierre 
Maquignaz is, I believe, under ordinary circum- 
stances, an excellent guide, and he enjoys the 
reputation of being never tired. But in such cir- 
cumstances as we encountered on the Matterhorn ho 


is not the equal of his brother. Joseph, if I may 
use the term, is a man of high boiling point, his 
constitutional sangfroid resisting the ebullition of 
fear. Pierre, on the contrary, shows a strong ten- 
dency to boil over in perilous places. 

Our progress was exceedingly slow, but it was 
steady and continued. At every step our leader 
trod the snow cautiously, seeking some rugosity 
on the rock beneath it. This however was rarely 
found, and in most cases he had to establish a me- 
chanical attachment between the snow and the slope 
which bore it. No semblance of a slip occurred in 
the case of any one of us, and had it occurred I 
do not think the worst consequences could have 
been avoided. I wish to stamp this slope of the 
Matterhorn with the character that really belonged 
to it when I descended it, and I do not hesitate to 
say that the giving way of any one of our party 
would have carried the whole of us to ruin. Why, 
then, it may be asked employ the rope ? The rope, 
I reply, notwithstanding all its possible drawbacks 
under such circumstances, is the safeguard of the 
climber. Not to speak of the moral effect of its 
presence, an amount of help upon a dangerous slope 
that might be measured by the gravity of a few 
pounds is often of incalculable importance ; and 
thus, though the rope may be not only useless but 
disastrous if the footing be clearly lost, and tli8 


glissade fairly begun, it lessens immensely the chance 
of this occurrence. 

With steady perseverance, difficulties upon a 
mountain, as elsewhere, come to an end. We were 
finally able to pass from the face of the pyramid tc 
its rugged edge, where it was a great relief to feel 
that honest strength and fair skill, which might 
have gone for little on the slope, were masters of 
the situation. 

Standing on the arete, at the foot of a remarkable 
cliff-gable seen from Zermatt, and permitting the 
vision to range over the Matterhorn, its appearance 
is exceedingly wild and impressive. Hardly two 
things can be more different than the two aspects of 
the mountain from above and below. Seen from 
the Eiffel, or Zermatt, it presents itself as a com- 
pact pyramid, smooth and steep, and defiant of the 
weathering air. From above, it seems torn to 
pieces by the frosts of ages, while its vast facettes 
are so foreshortened as to stretch out into the 
distance like plains. But this underestimate of the 
steepness of the mountain is checked by the deport- 
ment of its stones. Their discharge along the side of 
the pyramid to-day was incessant, and at any moment, 
by detaching a single boulder, we could let loose 
a cataract of them, which flew with wild rapidity 
and with a thunderous clatter down the mountain. 
We once wandered too far from the arete, and were 


warned back to it by a train of these missiles sweep- 
ing past us. 

As long as our planet yields less heat to space 
than she receives from the bodies of space, so long 
will the forms upon her surface undergo mutation, 
and as soon as equilibruim, in regard to heat, has 
been established we shall have, as Thomson has 
pointed out, not peace, but death. Life is the pro- 
duct and accompaniment of change, and the self- 
same power that tears the flanks of the hills to pieces 
is the mainspring of the animal and vegetable worlds. 
Still, there is something chilling in the contempla- 
tion of the irresistible and remorseless character of 
those infinitesimal forces, whose integration through 
the ages pulls down even the Matterhorn. Hacked 
and hurt by time, the aspect of the mountain from 
its higher crags saddened me. Hitherto the impres- 
sion that it made was that of savage strength, but 
here we had inexorable decay. 

This notion of decay, however, implied a reference 
to a period when the Matterhorn was in the full 
strength of mountainhood. My thoughts naturally 
ran back to its possible growth and origin. Nor 
did they halt there, but wandered on through molten 
worlds to that nebulous haze which philosophers have 
regarded, and with good reason, as the proximate 
source of all material things. I tried to look at 
this universal cloud, containing within itself the 


prediction of all that has since occurred ; I tried tc 
imagine it as the seat of those forces whose action 
was to issue in solar and stellar systems, and all 
that they involve. Did that formless fog contain 
potentially the sadness with which I regarded the 
Matterhorn ? Did the thought which now ran back 
to it simply return to its primeval home ? If so, 
had we not better recast our definitions of matter 
and force ? for if life and thought be the very flower 
of both, any definition which omits life and thought 
must be inadequate, if not untrue. 

Questions like these, useless as they seem, may 
still have a practical outcome. For if the final goal 
of man has not been yet attained, if his development 
has not been yet arrested, who can say that such 
yearnings and questionings are not necessary to the 
opening of a finer vision, to the budding and the 
growth of diviner powers ? Without this upward 
force could man have risen to his present height? 
When I look at the heavens and the earth, at my 
own body, at my strength and weakness of mind, 
even at these ponderings, and ask myself, Is there 
no being or thing in the universe that knows more, 
about these matters than I do ? — what is my an- 
swer ? Supposing our theologic schemes of creation, 
condemnation, and redemption to be dissipated ; 
and the warmth of denial which they excite, and 
tdiich, as a motive force, can matcli the warmth of 


affirmation, dissipated at the same time ; would the 
undefiected human mind return to the meridian of 
absolute neutrality as regards these ultra-physical 
questions ? Is such a position one of. stable equi- 
librium ? Such are the questions, without replies, 
which could run through consciousness during a 
ten minutes' halt upon the weathered spire of the 

We shook the rope away from us, and went 
rapidly down the rocks. The day was well advanced 
when we reached the cabin, and between it and the 
base of the pyramid we missed our way. It was late 
when we regained it, and by the time we reached the 
ridge of the Hornli we were unable to distinguish 
rock from ice. We should have fared better than 
we did if we had kept along the ridge and felt our 
way to the Schwarz See, whence there would have 
been no difficulty in reaching Zermatt, but we left 
fhe Hornli to our right, and found ourselves inces- 
santly checked in the darkness by ledges and preci- 
pices, possible and actual. We were afterwards 
entangled in the woods of Zmutt, carving our way 
wearily through bush and bramble, and creeping 
at times along dry and precipitous stream-beds. 
But we finally struck the path and followed it to 
Zermatt, which we reached between one and two 
o'clock in the morning. 

Having work to do for the Norwich meeting of 


the British Association, I remained several days at 
the Eiffel, taking occasional breathings with plea- 
sant companions upon the Eiffelhorn. I subse- 
quently crossed the Weissthor with Mr. Paris to 
Mattmark, and immediately afterwards returned to 

On the 4th of September, Signor Giordano, to 
whom we are indebted for a very complete geological 
section of the Matterhorn, with Joseph Maquignaz 
and Carrel as guides, followed my route over the 
mountain. In a letter dated Florence, December 
31, 1868, he writes to me thus : 

6 Quant a moi, je dirai que vraiment, j'ai trouve 
cette fois le pic assez difficile. . . . J'ai surtout 
trouve difficile la traversee de l'arete qui suit le 
pic Tyndall du cote de l'ltalie. Quant au versant 
suisse, je l'ai trouve moins difficile que je ne croyais, 
parce que la neige y etait un peu consolidee par la 
ehaleur. En descendant le pic du cote de Zermatt 
j'ai encouru un veritable danger par les avalanches 

de pierres Un de mes deux guides a eu le 

havresac coupe en deux par un bloc, et moi-meme 
j'ai ete un peu contusionneV 




The failure through bad weather of a former 
attempt upon the Aletschhorn has been already 
recorded ; but a succession of cloudless days at the 
Bel Alp in August 1869 stirred up the desire to try 
again. This was strengthened by the wish to make 
a series of observations from the greatest accessible 
elevation on the colour and polarisation of the sky. 
I had no guide of my own, but the Knecht at the 
hotel had been up the mountain, and I thought that 
we two might accomplish the ascent without any other 
assistance. It was the first time the mountain had 
been attempted by a single guide, and I was there- 
fore careful to learn whether he was embarrassed by 
either doubt or fear. There was no doubt or fear 
in the matter : he really wished to go with me. His 
master (the proprietor of the hotel) had asked him 
whether he was not undertaking too much. ' I am 
undertaking no more than my companion,' was his 

At twenty minutes past two we quitted the Bel 


Alp. The moon, which seven hours previously had 
cleared the eastern mountain-tops with a visible 
motion, was now sloping to the west. The light was 
white and brilliant, and shadows of corresponding 
darkness were cast upon the earth. The larger stars 
were out, those near the horizon especially sparkling 
with many-coloured fires. The Pleiades were near 
the zenith, while Orion hung his sword a few degrees 
above the eastern horizon. Our path lay along the 
slope of the mountain, parallel to the Oberaletsch 
glacier, the lateral moraine of which was close to us 
on our right. After climbing sundry grass acclivities 
we mounted this moraine, and made it our pathway 
for a time. At a certain point the shingly ridge 
became depressed, opening a natural passage to the 
glacier. We found the ice ' hummocky,' and there- 
fore crossed it to a medial moraine composed of 
granite debris and loaded here and there with clean 
granite blocks of enormous size. Beyond this 
moraine we found smoother ice and better light, for 
we had previously journeyed in the shadow of the 

We marched upwards along the glacier chatting 
sociably at times, but at times stilled into silence by 
the stillness of the night. ' Es tagt ! ' at length 
exclaimed my companion. It dawns ! Orion had 
moved upwards, leaving space between him and the 
horizon for the morning star. All the east was 


belted by that ' daffodil sky ' which in some states 
of the atmosphere announces the approach of day in 
the Alps. We spun towards the east. It brightened 
and deepened, but deeper than the orange of the 
spectrum it did not fall. Amid this the mountains 
rose. Silently and solemnly their dark and dented 
outlines rested against the dawn. 

The mass of light thus thrown over the shaded 
earth long before the sun appeared above the horizon 
came not from illuminated clouds, but from matter 
far more attenuated than clouds — matter which main- 
tains comparative permanence in the atmosphere, 
while clouds are formed and dissipated. It is not 
light reflected from concentric shells of air of varying 
density, of which our atmosphere may be rightly 
assumed to be made up ; for the light reflected from 
these convex layers is thrown, not upon the earth at 
all, but into space. The ' rose of dawn ' is usually 
ascribed, and with sufficient correctness, to trans- 
mitted light, the blue of the sky to reflected light ; 
but in each case there is both transmission and 
reflection. No doubt the daffodil and orange of 
the east this morning must have been transmitted 
through long reaches of atmospheric air, and no 
doubt it was during this passage of the rays that the 
selective winnowing of the light occurred which gave 
the sky its tint and splendour. But if the distance 
of the sun below the horizon when the dawn firct 


appeared betaken into account, it will become evident 
that the solar rays must have been caused to swerve 
from their rectilineal course by reflection. The 
refraction of the atmosphere would be wholly in- 
competent to bend the rays round the convex earth 
to the extent now under contemplation. 

Thus the light which is reflected must be first 
transmitted to the reflecting particles, while the 
transmitted light, except in the direct line of the 
sun, must be reflected to reach the eyes. What 
mainly holds the light in our atmosphere after the 
sun has retired behind the earth is, I imagine, the 
suspended matter which produces the blue of the 
sky and the morning and the evening red. Through 
the reverberation of the rays from particle to particle, 
there must be at the very noon of night a certain 
amount of illumination. Twilight must continue 
with varying degrees of intensity all night long, and 
the visibility of the nocturnal firmament itself may 
be due, not, as my excellent friend Dove seems 
to assume, to the light of the stars, but in great part 
to the light of the sun, scattered in all directions 
through the atmosphere by the almost infinitely 
attenuated matter held there in suspension. 

We had every prospect of a glorious day. To our 
left was the almost full moon, now close to the 
ridge of the Sparrenhorn. The firmament was as 
blue as ever I have seen it — deep and dark, and to 


all appearance pure ; that is to say, unmixed with 
any colour of a lower grade of refrangibility than 
the blue. The lunar shadows had already become 
weak, and were finally washed away by the light of 
the east. But while the shadows were at their 
greatest depth, and therefore least invaded by the 
dawn, I examined the firmament with a Nicol's prism. 1 
The moonlight, as I have said, came from the left, 
and right in front of me was a mountain of dark 
brown rock, behind which spread a heaven of the 
most impressive depth and purity. I looked over 
the mountain-crest through the prism. In one 
position of the instrument the blue was not sensibly 
affected ; in the rectangular position it was so far 
quenched as to reduce the sky and the dark moun- 
tain beneath it to the same uniform hue. The 
outline of the mountain could hardly be detached 
from the sky above it. This was the direction in 
which the prism showed its maximum quenching 
power ; in no other direction was the extinction of 
the light of the sky so perfect. And it was at right 
angles to the lunar rays : so that, as regards the 
polarisation of the sky, the beams of the moon 
behave exactly like those of the sun. 

The glacier along whic^i we first marched was a 
truiik of many tributaries, and consequently of many 
i medial moraines,' such moraines being always one 

1 Art. X. of • Fragments of Science ' is devoted to the sky. 


less in number than the tributaries. 1 But two 
principal branches absorbed all the others as con- 
stituents. One of these descended from the Great 
and Little Nesthorn and their spurs ; the other 
from the Aletschhorn. Up this latter branch we 
steered from the junction. Hitherto the surface of 
the glacier, disintegrated by the previous day's sun, 
and again hardened by the night's frost, had crackled 
under our feet ; but on the Aletschhorn branch the 
ice was coated by a kind of fur, resembling the nap 
of velvet : it was as soft as a carpet, but at the 
same time perfectly firm to the grip of the boot. 
The sun was hidden behind the mountain ; and, 
thus steeped in shade, we could enjoy, with spirits 
unblunted by the heat, the loveliness and grandeur 
of the scene. 

Eight before us was the pyramid of the Aletsch- 
horn, bearing its load of glaciers, and thrusting 
above them its pinnacle of rock ; while right and 
left of us towered and fell to snowy cols such other 
peaks as usually hang about a mountain of nearly 
14,000 feet elevation. And amid them all, with a 
calmness corresponding to the deep seclusion of the 
place, wound the beautiful system of glaciers along 
which we had been marching for nearly three hours. 
I know nothing which can compare in point of 
glory with these winter palaces of the mountaineer, 
under the opening illumination of the morning 
1 'Glaciers of the Alps,' p. 2CA. 


And the best of it is, that no right of property in 
the scene could enhance its value. To Switzerland 
belongs the rock — to the early climber, competent 
to enjoy them, belong the sublimity and beauty 
of mass, form, colour, and grouping. And still the 
outward splendour is by no means all. ' In the 
midst of a puddly moor,' says Emerson, ' I am afraid 
to say how glad I am : ' which is a strong way of 
affirming the influence of the inner man as regards 
the enjoyment of external nature. And surely the 
inner man is a high factor in the effect. The mag- 
nificence of the world outside suffices not. Like 
light falling upon the polished plate of the photo- 
grapher, the glory of Nature, to be felt, must 
descend upon a soul prepared to receive its image 
and superscription. 

Mind, like force, is known to us only through 
matter. Take, then, what hypothesis you will — 
consider matter as an instrument through which the 
insulated mind exercises its powers, or consider 
both as so inextricably mixed that they stand or 
fall together ; from both points of view the care of 
the body is equally important. 1 The morality of 
clean blood ought to be one of the first lessons 
taught us by our pastors and masters. The physical 
is the substratum of the spiritual, and this fact ought 

1 It will not be supposed that I here mean the stuffing or pam- 
pering of the body. The shortening of the supplies, or a good 
monkish fast at intervals, is often the best discipline for the body. 


to give the food we eat and to the air we breathe 
a transcendental significance. Boldly and truly 
writes Mr. Ruskin, ' Whenever you throw your 
window wide open in the morning, you let in 
Athena, as wisdom and fresh air at the same instant ; 
and whenever you draw a pure, long, full breath of 
right heaven, you take Athena into your heart, through 
your blood ; and with the blood into thoughts of 
the brain.' No higher value than this could be 
assigned to atmospheric oxygen. 

Precisely three hours after we had quitted our 
hotel the uniform gradient of the Aletschhorn glacier 
came to an end. It now suddenly steepened to run 
up the mountain. At the base we halted to have 
some food, a huge slab of granite serving us for a 
table. It is not good to go altogether without food 
in these climbing expeditions ; nor is it good to eat 
copiously. Here a little and there a little, as the 
need makes itself apparent, is the prudent course. 
For, left to itself, the stomach infallibly sickens, and 
the forces of the system ooze away. Should the 
sickness have set in so as to produce a recoil fn::m 
nutriment, the stomach must be forced to yield. 
A small modicum of food usually suffices to set 
it right. The strongest guides and the sturdiest 
porters have sometimes to use this compulsion. 
1 Sie miissen sioh zwingen.' The guides refer 
the capriciousness of the stomach at great eleva*. 


tions to the air. This may be a cause, but I am 
inclined to think that something is also due to the 
motion — the long-continued action of the same 
muscles upon the diaphragm. The condition of 
things antecedent to the journey must also be taken 
into account. There is little, if any, sleep ; the 
starting meal is taken at an unusual hour ; and if 
the start be made from a mountain cave or cabin, 
instead of from the bed of an hotel, the deviation 
from normal conditions is aggravated. It could not 
be the mere difference of height between Mont 
Blanc and Monte Kosa which formerly rendered 
their effects upon travellers so different. It is that, 
in the one case, you had the melted snow of the 
Grands Mulcts for your coffee, and a bare plank for 
your bed ; while in the other you had the compara- 
tive comforts of the auberge on the Eiffel. On the 
present occasion I had a bottle of milk, which suits 
me better than anything else. That and a crust are 
all I need to keep my vigour up and to ward off 
le mat des montagnes. 

After half an hour's halt we made ready for the 
peak, meeting first a quantity of moraine matter 
mingled with patches of snow, and afterwards the 
rifted glacier. We threaded our way among the 
crevasses, and here I paid particular attention to the 
deportment of my guide. The want of confidence, 
or rather the absence of that experience of a guide's 


powers, on which alone perfect reliance can be based, 
is a serious drawback to the climber. This source of 
weakness has often come home to me since the deatli 
of my brave friend Bennen. His loss to me was like 
that of an arm to a fighter. But I was glad to 
notice that my present guide was not likely to err 
on the score of rashness. He left a wider margin 
between us and accident than I should have deemed 
necessary ; he sounded with his staff where I should 
have trod without hesitation ; and, knowing my own 
caution, I had good reason to be satisfied with his. 
Still, notwithstanding all his vigilance, he once 
went into a concealed fissure — only waist-deep, how- 
ever, and he could certainly have rescued himself 
without the tug of the rope which united us. 

After some time we quitted the ice, striking 
a rocky shoulder of the mountain. The rock had 
been pulled to pieces by the weather, and its 
fragments heaped together to an incoherent ridge. 
Over the lichened stones we worked our way, 
our course, though rough, being entirely free from 
danger. On this ridge the sun first found us, 
striking us at intervals, and at intervals disappearing 
behind the sloping ridge of the Aletschhorn. We 
attained the summit of the rocks, and had now 
the upper reaches of the neve before us. To our 
left the glacier was greatly torn, exposing fine 
vertical sections, deep bme pits and chasms, which 

i860] ascent of the aletschhorn. 305 

were bottomless to vision ; and ledges, from whose 
copings hung vaster stalactites than those observed 
below. The beauty of the higher crevasses is 
mightily enhanced by the long transparent icicles 
which hang from their eaves, and which, loosened 
by the sun, fall into them with ringing sound. 
Above us was the customary Bergschrund ; but the 
spring avalanches had swept over it, and closed it, 
and since the spring it had not been able to open 
its jaws. At this schrund we aimed, reached it, and 
crossed it, and immediately found ourselves at the 
base of the final cap of the mountain. 

Looking at the Aletschhorn from the Sparrenhorn, 
or from any other point which commands a similar 
view of the pyramid, we see upon the ridge which 
falls from the summit to the right, and at a con- 
siderable distance from the top, a tooth or pinnacle of 
rock, which encloses with the ridge a deep indenta- 
tion. At this gap we now aimed. We varied our 
ascent from steep snow to rock, and from steep rock 
to snow, avoiding the difficulties when possible, and 
facing them when necessary. We met some awkward 
places, but none whose subjugation was otherwise than 
pleasant, and at length surmounted the edge of the 
arete. Looking over this, the facette of the pyramid 
fell almost sheer to the Middle Aletsch glacier. This 
was a familiar sight to me, for years ago I had 
strolled over it alone. Below it was the Great 


Aletsch, into which the Middle Aletsch flows, and 
beyond both was the well-known ridge of the JEggisch- 
horn. We halted, but only for a moment. Turn- 
ing suddenly to the left, we ascended the rocky ridge 
to a sheltered nook which suggested a brief rest and 
a slight renewal of that nutriment which, as stated, 
is so necessary to the wellbeing of the climber. 

From time to time during the ascent I examined 
the polarisation of the sky. I should not have halted 
had not the fear of haze or clouds upon the summit 
admonished me. Indeed, as we ascended, one thin, 
arrowy cloud shot like a comet's tail through the air 
above us, spanning ninety degrees, or more, of the 
heavens. Never, however, have I observed the sky 
of a deeper, darker, and purer blue. It was to ex- 
amine this colour that I ascended the Aletschhorn, 
and I wished to observe it where the hue was deepest 
and the polarisation most complete. You can look 
through very different atmospheric thicknesses at 
right angles to the solar beams. When, for example, 
the sun is in the eastern or western horizon, you 
can look across the sun's rays towards the northern 
or southern horizon, or you can look across them to 
the zenith. In the latter direction the blue is deeper 
and purer than in either of the former, the propor- 
tion of the polarised light of the sky to its total light 
being also a maximum. 

The sun, however, when I was on the Aletschhorn, 


was not in the horizon, but high above it. 1 
placed my staff upright on a platform of snow. 
It cast a shadow. Inclining the staff from the 
sun, the shadow lengthened for a time, reached its 
major limit, and then shortened. The simplest 
geometrical consideration will show that the staff 
when its shadow was longest was perpendicular to 
the solar rays ; the atmosphere in this direction was 
shallower and the sky bluer than in any other direc- 
tion perpendicular to the same rays. Along this 
Line I therefore looked through the Nicol. The light, 
I found, could be quenched so as to leave a residue as 
dark as the firmament upon a moonless night ; but 
still there was a residue — the polarisation was not 
complete. Nor was the colour, however pure its 
appearance, by any means a monochromatic blue. A 
disc of selenite, gradually thickening from the cen- 
tre to the circumference, when placed between the 
Nicol and the sky, yielded vivid iris colours. The 
blue was very marked ; but there was vivid purple, 
which requires an admixture of red to produce it. 
There was also a bright green, and some yellow. In 
fact, however purely blue the sky might seem, it sent 
to the eye all the colours of the spectrum : it owed 
its colour to the predominance of blue, that is to 
say, to the enfeeblement, and not to the extinction, 
of the other colours of the spectrum. The green 
was particularly vivid in the portion of the sky 


nearest to the mountains, where the light was 4 daf- 

A pocket spectroscope confirmed these results. 
Permitting the light of an illuminated cloud to 
enter the slit of the instrument, a vivid spectrum 
was observed ; but on passing beyond the rim of the 
cloud to the adjacent firmament, a sudden fall in 
the intensity of all the less refrangible rays of the 
spectrum was observed. There was an absolute 
shortening of the spectrum in the direction of the 
red, through the total extinction of the extreme red. 
The fall in luminousness was also very striking as 
far as the green ; the blue also suffered, but not so 
much as the other colours. 

The scene as we ascended grew more and more 
superb, both as regards grouping and expansion. 
Viewed from the Bel Alp the many-peaked Dom is 
a most imposing mountain ; it has there no com- 
petitor. The mass of the Weisshorn is hidden, its 
summit alone appearing. The Matterhorn, also, 
besides being more distant, has a portion of its 
pyramid cut obliquely away by the slope of the 
same ridge that intercepts the Weisshorn, and 
which is seen to our right when we face the 
valley of the Ehone, falling steeply to the pro- 
montory called the Nessel. Viewed from this 
promontory, the Dom finds its match, and more 
than its match, in its mighty neighbour, whose 


hugeness is here displayed from top to bottom. On 
the lower reaches of the Aletschhorn also the Dom 
maintains its superiority, the Weisshorn being for 
a time wholly unseen, and the Matterhorn but 
imperfectly. As we rise, however, the Dom steadily 
loses its individuality, until from the ridge of the 
Aletschhorn it is jumbled to a single leviathan heap 
with the mass of Monte Eosa. The Weisshorn mean- 
while as steadily gains in grandeur, rising like a 
mountain Saul amid the congregated hills, until 
from the arete it distances all competitors. In 
comparison with this kingly peak, the Matterhorn 
looks small and mean. It has neither the mass noi 
the form which would enable it to compete, from 
a distant point of view, with the Weisshorn. 

The ridge of the Aletschhorn is of schistose gneiss ; 
in many places smooth, in all places steep, and 
sometimes demanding skill and strength on the part 
of the climber. I thought we could scale it with 
greater ease if untied, so I flung the rope away from 
me. My guide was in front, and I carefully watched 
his action among the rocks. For some time there 
was nothing to cause anxiety for his safety. There 
was no likelihood of a slip, and if a slip occurred 
there was opportunity for recovery. But after a 
time this ceased to be the case. The rock had been 
scaled away by weathering parallel to the planes of 
foliation, the surfaces left behind being excessively 


smooth, and in many cases flanked by slopes and 
couloirs of perilous steepness. I saw that a slip 
might occur here, and that its consequences would 
be serious. The rope was therefore resumed. 

A fair amount of skill and an absence of all pre- 
cipitancy rendered our progress perfectly secure. 
In every place of danger one of us planted himself 
as securely as the rock on which he stood, and 
remained thus fixed until the danger was passed by 
the other. Both of us were never exposed to peril 
at the same moment. The bestowal of a little 
extra time renders this arrangement possible along 
the entire ridge of the Aletschhorn ; in fact, the 
dangers of the Alps can be almost reduced to the 
level of the dangers of the street by the exercise of 
skill and caution. For rashness, ignorance, or care- 
lessness the mountains leave no margin ; and to 
rashness, ignorance, or carelessness three-fourth's 
of the catastrophes which shock us are to be traced. 
Even those whose faculties are ever awake in danger 
are sometimes caught napping when danger seems 
remote ; they receive accordingly the punishment 
of a tyro for a tyro's neglect. 1 

While ascending the lower glacier we found the 
air in general crisp and cool ; but we were visited 
at intervals by gusts of Fohn — warm breathings of 
the unexplained Alpine sirocco, which passed o\ er 

1 See illustration at the end of this chapter. 


our cheeks like puffs from a gently heated stove. 
On the arete we encountered no Fohn ; but the 
rocks were so hot as to render contact with them 
painful. I left my coat among them, and went 
upward in my shirt-sleeves. At our last bivouac 
my guide had allowed two hours for the remaining 
ascent. We accomplished it in one, and I was 
surprised by the shout which announced the 
passage of the last difficulty, and the proximity 
of the top of the mountain. This we reached pre- 
cisely eight hours after starting — an ascent of fair 
rapidity, and without a single mishap from begin- 
ning to end. 

Eock, weathered to fragments, constitutes the 
crown of the Aletschhorn ; but against this and 
above it is heaped a buttress of snow, which tapers, 
as seen from the iEggisehhorn, to a pinnacle of sur- 
passing beauty. This snow was firm, and we readily 
attained its highest point. Over this I leaned for 
ten minutes, looking along the face of the pyramid, 
which fell for thousands of feet to the neves at its 
base. We looked down upon the Jungfrau, and 
upon every other peak for miles around us, one only 
excepted. The exception was the Finsteraarhorn, 
the highest of the Oberland mountains, after which 
comes the Aletschhorn. I could clearly track the 
course pursued by Bennen and myself eleven years 
previously — the spurs of rock and slopes of snow, 


the steep and weathered crest of the mountain, and 
the line of our swift glissade as we returned. 

Round about the dominant peak of the Oberland 
was grouped a crowd of other peaks, retreating 
eastward to Grraubunden and the distant Engadin ; 
retreating southward over Italy, and blending ulti- 
mately vvith the atmosphere. At hand were the 
Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger. A little further off 
the Blumlis Alp, the Weisse Frau, and the Great 
and Little Nesthorn. In the distance the grim 
precipices of Mont Blanc, rising darkly from the 
Allee Blanche, and lifting to the firmament the 
snow-crown of the mountain. The Combin and its 
neighbours were distinct ; and then came that 
trinity of grandeur, with which the reader is so well 
acquainted — the Weisshorn, the Matterhorn, and 
the Dom — supported by the Alphubel, the Allalein- 
horn, the Rympfischhorn, the Strahlhorn, and the 
mighty Monte Rosa. From no other point in the 
Alps have I had a greater command of their mag- 
nificence — perhaps from none so great ; while the 
blessedness of perfect health, on this perfect day, 
rounded off within me the external splendour. The 
sun seemed to take a pleasure in bringing out the 
glory of the hills. The intermixture of light and 
shade was astonishing ; while to the whole scene a 
mystic air was imparted by a belt of haze, in which 
fche furthest outlines disappeared, as if infinite 
distance had rendered them impalpable. 


Two concentric shells of atmosphere, perfectly 
distinct in character, clasped the earth this morning. 
That which hugged the surface was of a deep neutral 
tint, too shallow to reach more than midway up the 
loftier mountains. Upon this, as upon an ocean, 
rested the luminous higher atmospheric layer, both 
being separated along the horizon by a perfectly 
definite line. This higher region was without a 
cloud ; the arrowy streamer that had shot across the 
firmament during our ascent, first reduced to feathery 
streaks, had long since melted utterly away. Blue 
was supreme above, while all round the horizon the 
intrinsic brilliance of the upper air was enhanced by 
contrast with the dusky ground on which it rested. 
But this gloomier portion of the atmosphere was also 
transparent. It was not a cloud-stratum cutting off 
the view of things below it, but an attenuated mist, 
through which were seen, as through a glass darkly, 
the lower mountains, and out of which the higher 
peaks and ridges sprung into sudden glory. 

Our descent was conducted with the same care 
and success that attended our ascent. I have already 
stated it to be a new thing for one man to lead a 
traveller up the mountain, and my guide in ascending 
had informed me that his wife had been in a state 
of great anxiety about him. But until he had cleared 
all dangers he did not let me know the extent of her 
devotion, nor the means she had adopted to ensure 
his safety. When we were once more upon the 


lower glacier, having left all difficulties behind us, 
he remarked with a chuckle that she had been in a 
terrible state of fear, and had informed him of her 
intention to have a mass for his safety celebrated 
by the village priest. But if he profited by this 
mediation^ I must have done so equally ; for in all 
dangerous places we were tied together by a rope 
which was far too strong to break had I slipped, 
My safety was, in fact, bound up in his, and I 
therefore thought it right to pay my share of the 
expense. ' How much did the mass cost ? ' I asked. 
' Oh, not much, sir,' he replied ; e only ninety cen- 
times.' Not deeming the expense worth dividing, 
1 let him pay for such advantage as I had derived 
from the priest's intercession. 

In 1868 I had been so much broken down on 
going to the Alps that even amongst them I found 
it difficult to recover energy. In 1869, however, 
after a severe discipline in bathing and climbing, 1 
my weariness disappeared, and before I attacked 
the Aletschhorn I felt that my restoration was en- 
sured. In my subsequent rambles it was a great 

1 In 1869 I tried to get to the top of the Wetterhorn m a single day 
from Grrindelwald, but the wildness of the storm and the bitterness 
of the cold drove Peter Baumann and me back, when we were within 
a quarter of an hour of the top. I was afterwards in the habit of 
taking to the Eiffel See when heavy snow was falling. It was at 
the Bel Alp, however, that I found myself renewed. 


delight and refreshment to me, whenever I felt 
heated, to choose a bubbling pool in some mountain 
stream, roll myself in it, and afterwards dance myself 
dry in the sunshine. Each morning I had a tub in 
a rivulet, a header in a lake, or a douche under a 
cascade. The best of these was half a mile or more 
from the hotel, but there was an inferior waterfall 
close at hand to which I resorted when time was 
short. On a bright morning towards the end of 
August 1869 I was returning from this cascade to my 
clothes, which were about twenty yards off. They 
might have been reached by walking on the grass, 
but I chose to walk on some slippery blocks of gneiss, 
and using no caution I staggered and fell. My shin 
was urged with great force against the sharp crystals, 
which inflicted three ugly wounds ; but I sponged 
the blood away, wrapped a cold bandage round the 
injured place, and limped to the hotel. I was quite 
disabled, but felt sure of speedy recovery, my health 
was so strong. 

For four or five days I remained quietly in bed. 
The wound had become entirely painless ; there 
was hardly any inflammation and no pus. I felt 
so well that I thought a little exercise would do 
me less harm than good. I abandoned my cold 
bandage and went out. That night inflammation 
set in, pus appeared, and in trying to dislodge it I 
poisoned the wound. It became worse and worse ; 


erysipelas set in, and at last it became evident that 
I might lose my foot or something more important. 
After remaining nearly a fortnight at the Bel Alp 
without medical advice I resolved to go to Greneva. 
I wrote accordingly to my friend Professor De la Rive, 
with the view of securing the services of an able 
surgeon. I was carried down to Brieg on a kind of 
bier, and midway on the mountain-slope had the good 
fortune to meet Mr. Ellis of Sloane Street. He 
examined my wound, and I have good reason to feel 
grateful to him for his extreme kindness and his 
excellent advice. My friend Soret met me at the 
railway station, and Dr. Grauthier was at my side a 
few seconds after I entered my hotel. 

But, despite all the care, kindness, and real skill 
bestowed upon me, I was a month in bed at Geneva. 
A sinus about five inches long had worked its channel 
from the wound down to the instep, which was 
undermined by an abscess. This Dr. Grauthier dis- 
covered and by assiduous attention cured. In her 
beautiful residence at Lammermor, on the margin 
of Lake Leman, Lady Emily Peel had a bed erected 
for me as soon as I was able to go there, and it was 
under her roof that the last traces of the sinus 
disappeared. I was so emaciated, however, that it 
required several months to restore the flesh and the 
strength that this paltry accident cost me. 


In 1870 I was again at the Bel Alp for several 
weeks, during which my interest was continually 
kept awake by telegrams from the seat of war ; for 
the enterprising proprietors both at the Bel Alp and 
the iEggischhorn had run telegraphic wires from 
the valley of the Rhone up to their respective hotels. 
The most noteworthy occurrence among the moun- 
tains in 1870 was a terrific thunderstorm, which set 
two forests on fire by the same discharge. One fire 
near the Eieder Alp was speedily quenched ; the 
other, under the Nessel. burned for several successive 
days and nights, and threatened to become a public 
calamity. A constant fiery glow was kept up by the 
combustion of the underwood, which formed the ve- 
hicle of transmission among the larger trees. Three 
or four of these would often burst simultaneously 
into pyramids of flame, which would last but a few 
minutes, leaving the trees with all their branches as 
red-hot embers behind. Pleavy and persistent raiu 
at length extinguished the conflagration. 




Haying fixed my head-quarters at the Montanvert, 
I was engaged for nearly six weeks during the 
summer of 1857 in making observations on the Mer 
de Grlace and its tributaries. Throughout this time 
I had the advantage of the able and unremitting 
assistance of my friend Mr. Hirst, who kindly under- 
took, in most cases, the measurement of the motion 
of the glacier. My permanent guide, Edouard 
ISimond, an intelligent and trustworthy man, was 
assistant on these occasions, and having arranged 
with Mr. Hirst the measurements required to be 
made, it was my custom to leave the execution of 
them to him, and to spend much of my time alone 
upon the glaciers. Days have thus been occupied 
amid the confusion of the Glacier du Greant, at the 
base of the great ice-fall of La Noire, in trying 
to connect the veined structure of the glacier with 


the stratification of its neve ; and often, after wan- 
dering almost unconsciously from peak to peak and 
from hollow to hollow, I have found myself, as the 
day was waning, in places from which it required a 
sound axe and a vigorous stroke to set me free. 

This practice gradually developed my powers of 
dealing with the difficulties of the glacier. On 
some occasions, however, I found the assistance of a 
companion necessary, and it was then my habit to 
take with me a hardy boy named Balmat, who was 
attached to the hotel at the Montanvert. He could 
climb like a cat, and one of our first expeditions 
together was an ascent to a point above Trelaporte, 
from which a magnificent view of the entire glacier 
is obtained. This point lies under the Aiguille de 
Charmoz, and to the left of a remarkable cleft, 
which is sure to attract the traveller's attention 
on looking upwards from the Montanvert. We 
reached the place through a precipitous couloir on 
the Montanvert side of the mountain ; and while 
two chamois watched us from the crags above, we 
made our observations, and ended our survey by 
pledging the health of Forbes and other explorers 
of the Alps. 

We descended from the eminence by a different 
route ; during both ascent and descent I had 
occasion to admire the courage and caution of my 
young companion, and the extraordinary cohesive 


force by which he clung to the rock. He, moreover, 
evidently felt himself responsible for my safety, and 
once when I asserted my independence so far as to 
attempt descending a kind of ' chimney/ which, 
though rather dangerous-looking : I considered to be 
practicable, he sprang to my side, and, with out- 
stretched arm and ringing voice, exclaimed, ' Mon- 
sieur, je vous defends de passer par la ! ' 

Anxious to avoid the inconvenience of the rules 
of the Chamouni guides, my aim, from the first, 
was to render myself as far as possible independent 
of their assistance. Wishing to explore the slopes 
of the Col du Greant, not for the purpose of crossing 
into Piedmont, but to examine the fine ice-sections 
which it exhibits, and to trace amid its chasms the 
gradual conversion of the snow into ice, I at first 
thought of attempting the ascent of the col alone ; 
but ' le petit Balmat,' as my host at the Montanvert 
always named him, acquitted himself so well on the 
occasion referred to that I thought he would make 
a suitable companion. On naming the project to 
him he eagerly embraced my proposal ; in fact, he 
said he was willing to try Mont Blanc with me if I 
desired it. 

On the morning of Friday, July 24, we ac- 
cordingly set off for the Tacul, I making, as we 
ascended, such few observations as lay in our way. 
The sun shone gloriously upon the mountains, and 


gleamed \>y refieclion from the surface of the glacier. 
Looked at through a pair of very dark spectacles, 
the scene was exceedingly striking and instructive. 
Terraces of snow clung to the mountains, exposing, 
hero and there, high vertical sections, which cast 
dense shadows upon the adjacent plateaux. The 
glacier was thrown into heaps and ' hummocks,' 
their tops glistening with white, silvery light, and 
their sides intensely shaded. When the lateral light 
was quite shut out, and all that reached the eyes 
had to pass through the spectacles, the contrast 
between light and shade was much stronger than 
when the glacier was viewed by the broad light of 
day. In fact, the shadows were no longer grey 
merely, but black ; to a similar augmentation of 
contrast towards the close of the day is to be re- 
ferred the fact that the ' Dirt Bands ' of the Mer de 
Grlace are best seen by twilight. 

A gentleman had started in the morning to cross 
the col, accompanied by two strong guides. We 
met a man returning from the Jardin, who told us 
that he had seen the party that preceded us ; that 
they had been detained a long time amid the 
seracs, and that our ascending without ladders was 
quite out of the question. As we approached the 
Tacul, my lynx-eyed little companion ranged with 
the telescope over the snowy slopes of the col, and 
at length exclaimed, s Je les vois, tous les trois ! ' — 

322 nouns of exercise in the alps. [J857 

the ' Monsieur ' in the middle, and a guide before 
and behind. They seemed like three black specks 
upon the shoulders of the Giant ; below them was 
the vast ice-cascade, resembling the foam of ten 
Niagaras placed end to end and stiffened into rest, 
while the travellers seemed to walk upon a floor as 
smooth as polished Carrara marble. Here and 
there, however, its uniformity was broken by vertical 
faults, exposing precipices of the stratified neve. 

On an old moraine near the Tacul, piled up 
centuries ago by the Grlacier de Lechaud, immense 
masses of granite are thrown confusedly together ; 
and one enormous slab is so cast over a number of 
others as to form a kind of sheltered grotto, which 
we proposed to make our resting-place for the night. 
Having deposited our loads here, I proceeded to the 
icefall of the Talefre, while my companion set out 
towards the Couvercle in search of firewood. I 
walked round the base of the frozen cascade, and 
climbed up among its riven pinnacles, examining thr; 
structure as I ascended. The hollow rumble of the 
rocks as they fell into the crevasses was incessant. 
From holes in the ice-cliffs clear cataracts gushed, 
coming I knew not whence, and going I knew not 
whither. Sometimes the deep gurgle of sub-glacial 
water was heard, far down in the ice. The resonance 
of the water as it fell into shafts struck me suddenly 
at intervals on turning corners, and seemed 9 in each 


case, as if a new torrent had bounded into life. 
Streams flowed through deep channels which they 
themselves had worn, revealing beautifully the ' rib- 
boned structure.' At the further end of the Glacier 
de Lechaud the Capucin Rock stood, like a preacher; 
and below him a fantastic group of granite pinnacles 
suggested the idea of a congregation. The outlines 
of some of the ice-cliffs were also very singular ; 
and it needed but a slight effort of the imagination 
to people the place with natural sculpture. 

At six o'clock the shrill whistle of my companion 
announced that our time of meeting was come. 
He had found some wood — dry twigs of rhododen- 
drons, and a couple of heavy stumps of juniper. I 
shouldered the largest of the latter, while he 
strapped his twigs on his back, and led the way to 
the Tacul. The sun shot his oblique rays against us 
over the heights of Charmoz, and cast our shadows 
far up the glacier. We filled our saucepan, which 
Balmat named 6 a machine,' with clear water, and 
bore it to our cavern, where the fire was soon 
crackling under the machine. I was assailed by the 
smoke, which set my eyes dripping tears ; but this 
cleared away when the fire brightened, and we 
boiled our chocolate and made a comfortable evening 

I afterwards clambered up the moraine to watch 
the tints of the setting sun ; clouds floated round the 


Aiguille de Charmoz, and were changed from grey to 
red, and from red to grey, as their positions varied. 
The shadows of the isolated peaks and pinnacles 
were drawn, at times, in black bands across the 
clouds ; and the Aiguille du Moine smiled and 
frowned alternately. One high snow-peak alone 
enjoyed the unaltered radiance of the sinking day ; 
the sunshine never forsook it, but glowed there, 
like the steady light of love, while a kind of 
coquetry was carried on between the atmosphere and 
the surrounding mountains. The notched summits 
of the Grrande and Petite Jorasse leaned peacefully 
against the blue firmament. The highest moun- 
tain-crags were cleft, in some cases, into fantastic 
forms ; single pillars stood out from all else, like 
lonely watchers, over the mountain scene; while 
little red clouds playfully embraced them at inter- 
vals, and converted them into pillars of tire. 

The sun at length departed, and all became cold 
and grey upon the mountains ; but a brief secondary 
glow came afterwards, and warmed up the brown 
cliffs once more. I descended the moraine, the 
smell of the smoke guiding me towards the rock 
under which I was to pass the night. A fire was 
burning at the mouth of the grotto, reddening with 
its glare the darkness of the interior. Beside the fire 
gat my little companion, with a tall, conical, red night- 
cap drawn completely over his ears ; our saucepan 


was bubbling on the fire; he watched it medita- 
tively, adding at times a twig, which sprung im- 
mediately into flame, and strengthened the glow 
upon his countenance. He looked, in fact, more liko 
a demon of the ice-world than a being of ordinary 
flesh and blood. I had been recommended to take 
a bit of a tallow candle with me to rub my face 
with, as a protection against the sun ; by the light 
of this we spread our rugs, lay down upon them, and 
wrapped them round us. 

The countless noises heard upon the glacier during 
the day were now stilled, and dead silence ruled the 
ice-world ; the roar of an occasional avalanche, how- 
ever, shooting down the flanks of Mont Mallet broke 
upon us with startling energy. I did not sleep till 
towards four o'clock in the morning, when I dozed 
and dreamed, and mingled my actual condition with 
my dream. When I awoke, I found my head weary 
enough upon the clay of the old moraine, my ribs 
pressed closely against a block of granite, and my 
feet amid sundry fragments of the same material. 
It was nearly five o'clock on Saturday the 25th 
when I arose ; my companion quickly followed my 
example. He also had slept but little, and once or 
twice during the night I fancied I could feel him 
shiver. We were, however, well protected from the 
cold. The high moraine of the Grlacier du Lechaud 
was on one side, that of the Grlacier du Greant od 



the other, while the cliffs of Mont Tacul formed the 
third side of a triangle, which sheltered us from the 
sharper action of the wind. At times the calm was 
perfect, and I felt almost too warm ; then again a 
searching wind would enter the grotto, and cause 
the skin to shrink on all exposed parts of the body. 
It had frozen hard, and to obtain water for washing 
I had to break through a sheet of ice which coated 
one of the pools upon the glacier. 

In a few minutes our juniper fire was crackling 
cheerily ; we made our chocolate and breakfasted. 
My companion emptied the contents of a small 
brandy bottle into my flask, which, however, was 
too small to hold it all, and on the principle, I 
uppose, of avoiding waste, he drank what remained. 
It was not much, but sufficient to muddle his brain, 
and to make him sluggish and drowsy for a time. 
We put the necessary food in our knapsacks and 
faced our task, first ascending the Grlacier du 
Tacul along its eastern side, until we came to the 
base of the seracs. 

The vast mass of snow collected on the plateau 
of the Col du Greant, and compressed to ice by its 
own weight, reaches the throat of the valley, which 
stretches from the rocks called Le Eognon to the 
promontory of the Aiguille Noire. Through this 
defile it is forced, falling steeply, and forming one 
of the grandest ice-cascades in the Alps. At the 


summit it is broken into transverse chasms of enor- 
mous width and depth ; the ridges between these 
break across again, and form those castellated 
masses to which the name of seracs has been 
applied. In descending the cascade the ice is 
crushed and riven ; ruined towers, which have 
tumbled from the summit, cumber the slope, and 
smooth vertical precipices of ice rise in succession 
out of the ruins. At the base of the fall the frag- 
ments are again squeezed together, but the con- 
fusion is still great, the glacier being tossed into 
billowy shapes, scooped into caverns, and cut into 
gorges by torrents which expand here and there 
into deep green lakes. 

Across this portion of the glacier we proceeded 
westward, purposing to attempt the ascent at the 
Eognon side. 1 Perils and difficulties soon began to 
thicken round us. The confusion of ice-pinnacles, 
crags, and chasms was very bewildering. Plates of 

1 Standing here alone, on another occasion, I heard the roar of 
what appeared to be a descending avalanche, hut the duration of the 
sound suprised me. I looked through my opera glass in the direction 
from which the sound proceeded, and saw issuing from the end of 
one of the secondary glaciers on the side of Mont Tacul a torrent of 
what appeared to me to be stones and mud. 1 could see the rocks 
and debris jumping down the declivities, and forming singular 
cascades. The noise continued for a quarter of an hour, when the 
descending torrent diminished until the ordinary stream, due to 
the melting of the glacier, alone remained. A sub-glacial lake had 
evidently burst its bounds, and carried the debris along with it in its 
rui^h downwards. 


ice jutted from the glacier like enormous fins, up 
the sides of which we had to rise by steps, and along 
the edges of which we had to walk. Often, while 
perched upon these eminences, we were flanked 
right and left by crevasses, the depth of which 
might be inferred from their impenetrable gloom. 
At some places forces of extreme complexity had 
acted on the mass ; the ridges were broken into 
columns, and some of these were twisted half round ; 
while the chasms were cut up into shafts which 
resembled gigantic honeycombs. Our work was 
very difficult, sometimes disheartening : neverthe- 
less, our inspiration was, that what man has done 
man may do, and we accordingly persevered. My 
fellow-traveller was silent for a time : the brandy 
had its effect upon him, and he confessed it ; but 
I thought that a contact with the cold ice would 
soon cause this to disappear, after which I resolved 
not to influence his judgment in the least. 

Looking now to the right, I suddenly became 
aware that, high above us, a multitude of unstable 
crags and leaning columns of ice covered the pre- 
cipitous incline. We had reached a position where 
protecting cliffs rose to our right, while in front of 
us was a space more open than any we had yet 
passed. The reason was that the ice avalanches had 
chosen it for their principal path. We had stepped 
upon this space when a peal above us brought us to 


a ^tand. Crash ! crasli ! crash ! nearer and nearer, 
the sound becoming more continuous and confused, 
as the descending masses broke into smaller blocks. 
Onward they came ! boulders half a ton and more 
in weight, leaping down with a kind of maniacal 
fury, as if their sole mission was to crush the seracs 
to powder. Some of them on striking the ice 
rebounded like elastic balls, described parabolas 
through the air, again smote the ice, and scattered 
its dust like clouds in the atmosphere. Deflected 
by their collision with the glacier, some blocks were 
carried past us within a few yards of the spot where 
we stood. I had never before witnessed an exhibi- 
tion of force at all comparable to this, and its 
proximity rendered that fearful which at a little 
distance would have been sublime. 

My companion held his breath, and then ex- 
claimed, ' C'est terrible ! il faut retourner.' In 
fact, while the avalanche continued we could not 
at all calculate upon our safety. When we heard 
the first peal we had instinctively retreated to the 
shelter of the ice bastions ; but what if one of these 
missiles struck the tower beside us ! would it be 
able to withstand the shock ? We knew not. In 
reply to the proposal of my companion, I simply 
said, ' By all means, if you desire it ; but let us 
wait a little.' I felt that fear was just as bad a 
counsellor as rashness, and thought it but fair to 


wait until my companion's terror had subsided. 
We waited accordingly, and he seemed to gather 
courage and assurance. I scanned the heights and 
saw that a little more effort in an upward direction 
would place us in a much less perilous position, as 
far as the avalanches were concerned. I pointed this 
out to my companion, and we went forward. Once 
indeed, for a minute or two, I felt anxious. We 
had to cross in the shadow of a tower of ice, of a 
loose and threatening character, which quite over- 
hung our track. The freshly broken masses at its 
base, and at some distance below it, showed that it 
must have partially given way some hours before. 
' Don't speak or make any noise,' said my companion ; 
and, although rather sceptical as to the influence of 
speech in such a case, I held my tongue and escaped 
from the dangerous vicinity as fast as my legs and 
alpenstock could carry me. 

Unbroken spaces, covered with snow, now began 
to spread between the crevasses ; these latter, how- 
ever, became larger, and were generally placed end 
to end en echelon. When, therefore, we arrived at 
the edge of a chasm, by walking along it we usually 
soon reached a point where a second one joined on 
it. The extremities of the chasms ran parallel to 
each other for some distance, one being separated 
from the other, throughout this distance, by a wall 
of incipient ice, coped at the top by snow. At other 


places, however, the lower portion of the partition 
between the fissures had melted away, leaving the 
chasm spanned by a bridge of snow, the capacity of 
which to bear us was often a matter of delicate ex- 
periment. Over these bridges we stepped as lightly 
as possible : ' Allez doucement ici,' was the per- 
petual admonition of my companion, ' et il faut 
toujours sonder.' 

In many cases, indeed, we could not at all guess 
at the state of matters underneath the covering of 
snow. We had picked up a few hints upon this 
subject, but neither of us was at this time suffi- 
ciently experienced to make practical use of them. 
The ' sounding ' too was rather weary work, as, to 
make it of any value, the baton must be driven 
into the snow with considerable force. Further 
up in the neve the fissures became less frequent, 
but some of them were of great depth and 
width. On those silent heights there is something 
peculiarly solemn in the aspect of the crevasses, 
yawning gloomily day and night, as if with a never- 
satisfied hunger. We stumbled on the skeleton of 
a chamois, which had probably met its death by 
falling into a chasm, and been disgorged lower down. 
But a thousand chamois between these cavernous 
jaws would not make a mouthful. I scarcely knew 
which to choose — these pitfalls of the neve, or the 
avalanches. The latter are terrible, but they are 


grand, outspoken things ; the ice crags proclaim 
from their heights, ' Do not trust us ; we are mo- 
mentary and merciless.' They wear the aspect of 
Hostility undisguised ; but these chasms of the neve 
are typified by the treachery of the moral world, 
hiding themselves under shining coverlets of snow, 
and compassing their ends by dissimulation. 

After some time we alighted on the trace of those 
who had crossed the day before. The danger was 
over when we made the discovery, but it saved us 
some exploring amid the crevasses which still re- 
mained. We at length got quite clear of the fissures 
and mounted zigzag to the summit of the col. 
Clouds drove up against us from the valley of 
Courmayeur, but they made no way over the col. 
At the summit they encountered a stratum of drier 
air, mixing with which they were reduced, as fast as 
they came, to a state of invisible vapour. Upon the 
very top of the col I spread my plaid, and with the 
appetites of hungry eagles we attacked our chicken 
and mutton. I examined the snow and made some 
experiments on sound ; but little Balmat's feet were 
so cold that he feared being frostbitten, and at his 
entreaty we started on our descent again as soon as 

To the top of the seracs we retraced the course by 
which we had ascended, but here we lost the track, 
for there was no snow to retain it. A new lesson 


was before us. We kept nearer to the centre of the 
glacier than when we ascended, thereby avoiding the 
avalanches, but getting into ice more riven and dis- 
located. We were often utterly at a loss how to pro 
ceed. My companion made several attempts to regain 
the morning's track, preferring to risk the avalanches 
rather than be blocked and ditched up in an ice- 
prison from which we saw no means of escape. 
Wherever we turned peril stared us in the face ; but 
the recurrence of danger had rendered us callous to 
it, and this indifference gave a mechanical surety to 
the step in places where such surety was the only 
means of avoiding destruction. Once or twice, while 
standing on the summit of a peak of ice, and looking 
at the pits and chasms beneath me, at the distance 
through which we had hewn our way, and at the 
work still to be accomplished, I experienced an in- 
cipient flush of terror. But this was immediately 
drowned in action. Indeed the case was so bad, the 
necessity for exertion so paramount, that the will 
acquired an energy which crushed out terror. We 
proceeded, however, with the most steady watch- 
fulness. When we arrived at a difficulty which 
seemed insuperable, we calmly inspected it, looking 
at it on all sides ; and though we had often to 
retrace our steps amid cliffs and chasms, still for- 
midable obstacles repeatedly disappeared before 
our cool and searching examination. We made no 


haste, we took no rest, but ever tended downwards. 
With all our instincts of self-preservation awake, we 
crossed places which, without the spur of necessity 
to drive us, we should have deemed impassable. 

Once, having walked for some distance along the 
edge of a high wedge of ice, we had to descend its 
left face in order to cross a crevasse. The ice was 
of that loose granular character which causes it to 
resemble an aggregate of little polyhedrons jointed 
together more than a coherent solid. I was not 
aware that the substance was so utterly disintegrated 
as it proved to be. To aid me in planting my foot 
securely on the edge of the crevasse, I laid hold of 
a projecting corner of the ice. It crumbled to 
pieces in my hand ; I tottered for a moment in the 
effort to regain my balance, my footing gave way, 
and I went into the chasm. I heard my companion 
scream, ' ! mon Dieu, il est perdu ! ' but a ledge 
about two feet wide jutted from the side of the 
crevasse ; and this received me, my fall not amount- 
ing to more than three or four feet. A block 
of ice which partially jammed up the chasm con- 
cealed me from Balmat. I called to him, and he 
responded by another exclamation, ' ! mon Dieu. 
comme j'ai peur ! ' He helped me up, and, looking 
anxiously in my face, demanded 'N'avez-vous pas 
pour?' Afterwards the difficulties lessened by 
degrees, and we began to gladden ourselves bv 


mutual expressions of ' content ' with what we had 
accomplished. We at length reached the base of 
the seracs ; ordinary crevasess were trivial in com- 
parison with those from which we had escaped, so 
we hastened along the glacier, without halting, to 
the Tacul. 

Here a paltry accident caused me more damage 
than all the dangers of the day. I was passing 
a rock, the snow beside it seemed firm, and I 
placed my baton upon it, leaning trustfully upon 
the staff. Through the warmth of the rock, or 
some other cause, the snow had been rendered 
hollow underneath ; it yielded, I fell forward, and 
although a cat-like capacity of helping myself in 
such cases saved me from serious hurt, it did not 
prevent my knee from being urged with all my 
weight against an edge of granite. I rested for half 
an hour in our grotto at the Tacul, and afterwards 
struggled lamely along the Mer de Grlace home to 
the Montanvert. Bloodshot eyes, burnt cheeks, and 
blistered lips were the result of the journey, but 
these soon disappeared, and fresh strength was 
gained for further action. 

The above account was written on the day follow- 
ing the ascent, and while all its incidents were fresh 
in my memory. Last September, guided by the 
tracks of previous travellers, I ascended nearly to the 
8ummit of the ice-fall, along its eastern side, and to 


those acquainted only with such dangers as I then 
experienced the account which I have just given 
must appear exaggerated. I can only say that the 
track which I pursued in 1858 bore no resemblance 
in point of difficulty to that which I followed in 
1857. The reason probably is, that in my first 
expedition neither myself nor my companion knew 
anything of the route, and we were totally destitute 
of the adjuncts which guides commonly use ia 
crossing the ' Grand Col.' 






I. • 


The law established by Forbes and Agassiz, that the 
central portions of a glacier moved faster than the 
sides, was amply illustrated and confirmed by the 
deportment of lines of stakes placed across the Mer 
de Glace and its tributaries in 1857. The portions 
of the trunk glacier derived from these tributaries 
were easily traceable throughout the glacier by 
means of the moraines. Thus, for example, the 
portion of the trunk stream derived from the 
Glacier du Geant might be distinguished in a 
moment from the other portions by the absence of 
debris upon its surface. Attention was drawn by 
Prof. Forbes to the fact that the eastern side of 
the Mer de Glace in particular is ' excessively 
crevassed ; ' and he accounted for this crevassing by 
supposing that the Glacier du Geant moves most 
swiftly, and in its effort to drag its more sluggish 
companions along with it tears them asunder, thus 
producing the fissures and dislocation for which 
the eastern side of the glacier is remarkable. Too 
touch weight must not be attached to this explanation 


It was one of those suggestions which are perpetu- 
ally thrown out by men of science during the 
course of an investigation, and the fulfilment or 
non-fulfilment of which cannot materially affect 
the merits of the investigator. Indeed, the merits 
of Forbes must be judged on far broader grounds. 
The qualities of mind and the physical culture 
invested in his ' Travels in the Alps ' are such as 
to make it, in the estimation of the physical in- 
vestigator at least, outweigh all other books upon 
\he subject. 

While thus acknowledging its merits, however, 
let a free and frank comparison of its statements 
with facts be instituted. To test whether the 
Glacier du Geant moved more quickly than its 
fellows, five different lines were set out across the 
Mer de Glace, in the vicinity of the Montanvert. 
In each case it was found that the point of swiftest 
motion did not lie upon the Glacier du Geant at 
all, but was displaced so as to bring it compara- 
tively clo?e to the eastern side of the glacier. But 
though the special opinion of Forbes just referred 
to here falls to the ground, the deviation of the 
point of swiftest motion from the centre of the 
glacier will probably, when its cause is pointed out, 
be regarded as of special importance to his theory. 

At the place where these five lines were run 
across it the glajier turns its convex curvature to 


the eastern side of the valley, being concave towards 
the Montanvert. Let us then take a bolder analogy 
than even that suggested in the explanation of 
Forbes, where he compares the Grlacier du Greant to 
a strong and swiftly flowing river. Let us enquire 
how a river, would behave in sweeping round a curve 
similar to that here existing. The point of swiftest 
motion would undoubtedly lie on that side of the 
centre of the stream towards which it turns its 
convex curvature. Can this be the case with the 
trunk of the Mer de Glace ? If so, then we ought 
to have a shifting of the point of maximum motion 
towards the eastern side of the valley, when the 
curvature of the glacier so changes as to turn its 
convexity to the western side. 

Now, such a change of flexure actually occurs 
opposite the passages called Les Ponts, and at this 
place the view just enunciated was tested. It was 
immediately ascertained that the point of swiftest 
motion here lay at a different side of the axis from 
that observed lower down. But to confer strict 
numerical accuracy upon the result, stakes were 
fixed at certain distances from the western side of 
the glacier, and others at equal distances from the 
eastern side. The velocities of these stakes w T ere 
compared with each other, two by two, a stake on 
the western side being always compared with a 
second one which stood at the eame distance from 


the eastern side. The results of this measurement 
are given in the following table, the numbers 
denoting inches : 

1st pair 

2nd pair 

Srd pair 

4 th pair 

5th pai 








. 12* 





It is here seen that in each case the western 
stake moved more swiftly than its eastern fellow 
stake ; thus proving, beyond a doubt, that opposite 
the Ponts the western side of the Mer de Grlace 
moves swiftest — a result precisely the reverse of 
that observed where the curvature of the valley was 

But an additional test of the explanation is 
possible. Between the Ponts and the promontory 
of Trelaporte the glacier passes another point of 
contrary flexure, its convex curvature opposite to 
Trelaporte being turned towards the base of the 
Aiguille du Moine, on the eastern side. A series of 
stakes was placed across the glacier here ; and the 
velocities of those placed at certain distances from 
the western side were compared, as before, with 
those of stakes placed at the same distances from 
the eastern side. The following table shows the 
result of these measurements ; the numbers, as 
before, denote inches : 

1st pair 

2nd pair 

3rd pair 


. 12| 



E&fet . 

. 14| 




Here we find that in each case the eastern stake 
moved faster than its fellow. The point of maxi- 
mum motion has therefore once more crossed the 
axis of the glacier. 

Determining the point of maximum motion for a 
great number of transverse sections of the Mer do 
Glace, and uniting these points, we have what is 
called the locus of the point. The dotted line in 
the annexed figure represents the centre of the 
Mer de Grlace ; the hard line which crosses the 
axis of the glacier at the points a a is then the 
locus of the point of swiftest motion. It is a curve 

Fig. i. 

more deeply sinuous than the valley itself, and it 
crosses the central line of the valley at each point 
of contrary flexure. The position of towns upon 
the banks of rivers is usually on the convex side of 
the stream, where the rush of the water renders 
silting-up impossible ; and the same law which 
regulated the flow of the Thames, and determined 
the position of the towns upon its banks, is at this 
moment operating with silent energy among the 
Alpine glaciers. 


Another peculiarity of glacier motion is now to 
be noticed. 

Before any observations had been made upon the 
subject, it was surmised by Prof. Forbes that the 
portions of a glacier near its bed were retarded by 
friction, against the latter. This view was after- 
wards confirmed by his own observations, and by 
those of M. Martins. Nevertheless the state of 
our knowledge upon the subject rendered further 
confirmation of the fact highly desirable. A rare 
opportunity for testing the question was furnished 
in 1857 by an almost vertical precipice of ice, 
constituting the side of the Glacier du Greant, 
exposed near the Tacul. The precipice was about 
140 feet in height. At the top and near the bottom 
stakes were fixed, and by hewing steps in the ice 
I succeeded in fixing a stake m the face of the 
precipice at a point about forty feet above the base. 1 
After the lapse of a sufficient number of days, the 
progress of the three stakes was measured ; reduced 
to the diurnal rate, the motion was as follows : 

Top stake . 

. 600 inches. 

Middle stake 

. 4-59 „ 

Bottom stake 

. 256 „ 

We thus see that the top stake moved with more 

1 It was here that my prudent guide, Edouard Simon, demanded, 
'Est-ce que vous avez une femme ? ' and, when I replied in in* 
negative, &dded, 'Vous serez tue tout de meme/ 


than twice the velocity of the bottom one, while the 
velocity of the middle stake lies between the two. 
But it also appears that the augmentation of velocity 
upwards is not proportional to the distance from the 
bottom, but increases in a quicker ratio. At a 
height of 100 feet from the bottom, the velocity 
would undoubtedly be practically the same as at 
the surface. Measurements made upon an adjacent 
ice-cliff proved this. We thus see the perfect 
validity of the reason assigned by Forbes for the 
continued verticality of the walls of transverse 
crevasses. Indeed a comparison of the result with 
his anticipations and reasonings will prove alike 
their sagacity and their truth 

The most commanding view of the Mer de Glace 
and its tributaries is obtained from a point above 
the remarkable cleft in the mountain-range under- 
neath the Aiguille de Charmoz, which is sure to 
attract the attention of an observer standing at the 
Montanvert. This point, marked Gr on the map of 
Forbes, I succeeded in attaining. A Tubingen 
Professor once visited the glaciers of Switzerland, 
and seeing these apparently rigid masses enclosed in 
sinuous valleys, went home and wrote a book, flatly 
denying the possibility of their motion. An inspec- 
tion from the point now referred to would have 
doubtless confirmed him in his opinion ; and indeed 
nothing can be more calculated to impress the 


mind with the magnitude of the forces brought into 
play than the squeezing of the three tributaries of 
the Mer de Grlace through the neck of the valley at 

But let me state numerical results. Previous 
to its junction with its fellows, the Grlacier du Greant 
measures 1,134 yards across. Before it is influenced 
by the thrust of the Talefre, the Grlacier de Lechaud 
has a width of 825 yards ; while the width of the 
Talefre branch across the base of the cascade, before 
it joins the Lechaud, is approximately 638 yards. 
The sum of these widths is 2,597 yards. At Tre- 
laporte those three branches are forced through a 
gorge 893 yards wide, with a central velocity of 
20 inches a day ! The result is still more astonish- 
ing if we confine our attention to one of the tribu- 
taries — that of the Lechaud. This broad ice-river, 
which before its junction with the Talefre has a 
width of 825 yards, at Trelaporte is squeezed to a 
driblet of less than 88 yards in width, that is to say, 
to about one-tenth of its previous horizontal trans- 
verse dimension. 

Whence is the force derived which drives the 
glacier through the gorge ? No doubt pressure 
from behind. Other facts also suggest that the 
Grlacier du Greant is throughout its length in a 
state of torcible longitudinal compression. Taking 
a series of points along the axis of this glacier — if 


these points, during the descent of the glacier, 
preserved their distances asunder perfectly constant, 
there could be no longitudinal compression. The 
mechanical meaning of this term, as applied to a 
substance capable of yielding like ice, must be that 
the hinder points are incessantly advancing upon 
the forward ones. I was particularly anxious to test 
this view, which first occurred to me on a priori 
grounds. Three points, A, B, C, were therefore 
fixed upon the axis of the Grlacier du Greant, A being 
the highest up the glacier. The distance between 
A and B was 545 yards, and that between B and C 
was 487 yards. The daily velocities of these three 
points, determined by the theodolite, were as fol- 
lows : 

A . . . 20*55 inches. 

B . 1543 

C . . 1275 „ 

The result completely corroborates the foregoing 
anticipation. The hinder points are incessantly 
advancing upon those in front, and that to an 
extent sufficient to shorten a segment of this glacier, 
measuring 1,000 yards in length, at the rate of 
8 inches a day. Were this rate uniform at all 
seasons, the shortening would amount to 240 feet in 
a year. When we consider the compactness of this 
glacier, and the uniformity in the width of the 
valley which it fills, this result cannot fail to excite 


surprise ; and the exhibition of force thus rendered 
manifest must be mainly instrumental in driving 
the glacier through the jaws of the granite vice at 

When the Grlacier du Greant is observed from a 
sufficient distance, a remarkable system of seams of 
white ice appears to sweep across it, in the direction 
of the c dirt-bands.' These seams are more resistant 
than the ordinary ice of the glacier, and sometimes 
protrude above the surface to a height of three 
or four feet. Their origin was for some time a 
difficulty, and it was at the base of the ice-cascade 
which descends from the basin of the Talefre that 
the key to their solution first presented itself. It 
was well known that the ice of a glacier is not of 
homogeneous structure, but that the general more 
or less milky mass is traversed by blue veins of a 
more compact and transparent texture. In the 
upper portions of the Mer de Grlace these vein9 
sweep across the glacier in gentle curves, leaning 
forward — to which leaning forward Prof. Forbes 
gave the name of the ' frontal dip.' A case of 
6 backward dip ' has never been described. But at 
the base of the ice-cascade referred to I had often 
noticed the veins exposed upon the walls of a 
longitudinal crevasse leaning backwards and for- 
wards on both sides of a vertical line, like the 
joints of stones used to turn an arch. 


This fact was found to connect itself in the follow- 
ing way with the general state of the glacier. At 
the base of the ice-fall a succession of protuberances, 
with steep frontal slopes, followed each other, and 
were intersected by crevasses. Let the hand be 
placed flat upon the table, with the palm down- 
wards ; let the fingers be bent so as to render the 
space between the joints nearest the nails and the 
ends of the fingers nearly vertical. Let the second 
hand be now placed upon the back of the first, with 
its fingers bent as in the former case, and their 
ends resting upon the roots of the first fingers. The 
crumpling of the hands fairly represents the crump- 
ling of the ice, and the spaces between the fingers 
represent the crevasses by which the protuberances 
are intersected. On the walls of these crevasses the 
change of dip of the veined structure above referred 
to was always observed, and at the base of each pro- 
tuberance a vein of white ice was found firmly 
wedged into the mass of the glacier. 

The next figure represents a series of these crumples 
with the veins of white ice i i i at their bases. 

It was soon observed that the water which trickled 
down the protuberances, and gushed here and there 
from glacier orifices, collected at the bases of the 
crumples, and formed streams which cut for them- 
selves deep channels in the ice. These streams 
geemed to be the exact matrices or moulds of the 


veins of white ice, and the latter were finally traced 
to the gorging up of the channels of glacial rivulets 
by winter snow. The same explanation applies to 
the system of bands upon the Glacier du Geant. I 
was enabled to trace the little arms of white ice 
which once were the tributaries of the streams, to 
see a trunk vein of the ice dividing into branches, 
and uniting again so as to enclose glacial islands. I 
finally traced them to the region of their formation, 

and by sketches of existing streams taken near th« 
base of the seracs, and of bands of white ice taken 
lower down, a resemblance so striking was exhibited 
as to leave no doubt of their relationship. On the 
walls of some deep crevasses, moreover, which 
intersected the white ice-seams, I found that the 
latter penetrated the glacier only to a limited 
depth, having the appearance of a kind of glacial 
' trap ' intruded from above. 


But how is the backward dip of the blue veins to 
be accounted for ? Doubtless in the following way : 
At the base of the cascade the glacier is forcibly 
compressed by the thrust of the mass behind it ; 
besides this, it changes its inclination suddenly and 
considerably ; it is bent upwards, and the conse- 
quence of this bending is a system of wrinkles, such 
as those represented in the next figure. The in- 
terior of a bent umbrella-handle sometimes presents 
wrinkles which are the representatives, in little, of 
the protuberances upon the glacier. The coat-sleeve 
is an equally instructive illustration : when the arm 

is bent at the elbow the sleeve wrinkles, and as the 
places where these wrinkles occur in the cloth are 
determined, to some extent, by the previous creasing, 
so also the places where the wrinkles are formed 
upon the glacier are determined by the previous 
scarring of the ice during its descent down the 
cascade. The manner in which these crumples tend 
to scale off speaks strongly in favour of the ex- 
planation given. The following figure represents a 


type of numerous instances of scaling off. By means 
of a hydraulic press it is easy to produce a perfectly 
similar scaling in small masses of ice. One conse- 
quence of this crumpling of the glacier would be 
the backward and forward inclination of the veins 


as actually observed. The same appearance was 
noticed on the wrinkles of the GKLacier du Greant. 
It was also proved, by measurements, that these 
wrinkles shorten as they descend. 

In virtue of what quality, then, can ice be bent and 
squeezed, and have its form changed in the manner 
indicated in the foregoing observations ? The only 
theory worthy of serious consideration at the pre- 
sent day is the celebrated Viscous Theory of glacial 
motion. Numerous appearances, as we have seen, 
favour the idea that ice is a viscous or ' semi-fluid ' 
substance, and that it flows as such in the glaciers 
of the Alps. The aspect of many glaciers, as a whole 
■ — their power of closing up crevasses, and of recon- 
structing themselves after having been precipitated 
down glacial gorges — the obvious bendings and 


contortions of various portions of the ice, are all in 
harmony with the notion. The laminar structure 
of the glacier has also been regarded by eminent 
authorities as a crucial test in favour of the viscous 
theory, and affirmed to be impossible of explanation 
on any other hypothesis. 

Nevertheless, this theory is so directly opposed to 
our ordinary experience of the nature of ice as to 
leave upon the mind a lingering doubt of its truth. 
Can we imitate the phenomena without invoking the 
explanation ? We can. Moulds of various forms 
were hollowed out in boxwood, and pieces of ice 
were placed in these moulds and subjected to pres- 
sure. In this way spheres of ice were flattened into 
cakes, and cakes formed into transparent lenses. A 
straight bar of ice, six inches long, was passed 
through a series of moulds augmenting in curvature, 
and was finally bent into a semiring. A small 
block of ice was placed in a hemispherical cavity, 
and was pressed upon by a hemispherical protube- 
rance, not large enough to fill the cavity; the ice 
yielded and filled the space between both, thus 
forming itself into a transparent cup. The speci- 
mens of ice here employed were so exceedingly 
brittle that a pricker driven into the ice was com- 
petent to split blocks of the substance eight cubic 
feet in volume, the surface of fracture being in all 
cases as clean and sharp as that of glass. 


These experiments, then, demonstrate a capacity 
on the part of small masses of ice which they have 
not been hitherto known to possess. They prove, to 
all appearance, that the substance is much more 
plastic than it was ever imagined to be. But the 
real germ from which these results have sprung is 
to be found in a lecture given at the Royal Institu- 
tion in June 1850, and reported in the 'Athenaeum' 
and ' Literary Gazette ' for that year. Faraday then 
showed that when two pieces of ice, at a tempera- 
ture of 32° Fahr., are placed in contact with each 
other, they freeze together, by the conversion of the 
film of moisture between them into ice. The case 
of a snowball is a familiar illustration of the prin- 
ciple. When the snow is below 32°, and therefore 
dry, it will not cohere, whereas when it is in a 
thawing condition it can be squeezed into a hard 
mass. During one of the hottest days of July 1857, 
when the thermometer was upwards of 100° Fahr. in 
the oun, and more than 80° in the shade, I observed 
a number of blocks of ice, which had been placed 
in a heap, frozen together at their places of contact ; 
and I afterwards caused them to freeze together under 
water as hot as the hand could bear. Facts like 
these suggested the thought that if a piece of 
ic*i — a straight prism, for example — were placed in 
a bent mould and subjected to pressure it would 
brer.k, but that the force would also bring its 


ruptured surfaces into contact, and thus the con- 
tinuity of the mass might be re-established. Ex- 
periment, as we have seen, completely confirmed 
this surmise : the ice passed from a continuous 
straight bar to a continuous bent one, the transition 
being effected, not by a viscous movement of the 
particles, but through fracture and regelation. 

Let the transition from curve to curve be only 
gradual enough, and we have the exact case of a 
transverse slice of a glacier. 

All the phenomena of motion, on which the idea of 
viscosity has been based, are brought by such experi- 
ments as the above into harmony with the demon- 
strable properties of ice. In virtue of this property, 
the glacier accommodates itself to its bed while pre- 
serving its general continuity, crevasses are closed 
up, and the broken ice of a cascade, such as that of 
the Talefre or the Ehone, is recompacted to a solid 
continuous mass. 

The very essence of viscosity is the ability of 
yielding to a force of tension, the texture of the sub- 
stance, after yielding, being in a state of equilibrium, 
bo that it has no strain to recover from ; and the 
Bubstances chosen by Prof. Forbes as illustrative 
of the physical condition of a glacier possess this 
power of being drawn out in a very eminent degree. 
But it has been urged, and justly urged, that we 


ought not to conclude that viscosity is absent 
because hand specimens are brittle, any more than 
we ought to conclude that ice is not blue because 
small fragments of the substance do not exhibit 
this colour. To test the question of viscosity, then, 
we must appeal to the glacier itself. Let us do so. 
An analogy between the motion of a glacier 
through a sinuous valley and of a river in a sinuous 
channel has been already pointed out. But the 
analogy fails in one important particular : the river, 
and much more so a mass of flowing treacle, honey, 
tar, or melted caoutchouc, sweeps round its curves 
without rupture of continuity. The viscous mass 
stretches^ but the icy mass breaks, and the ' excessive 
crevassing' pointed out by Prof. Forbes himself 
is the consequence. The inclinations of the Mer 
de Grlace and its three tributaries were, moreover, 
taken, and the association of transverse crevasses 
with the changes of inclination were accurately 
noted. Every traveller knows the utter dislocation 
and confusion produced by the descent of the Mer 
de Grlace from the Chapeau downwards. A similar 
state of things exists in the ice-cascade of the 
Talefre. Descending from the Jardin, as the ice 
approaches the fall, great transverse chasms are 
formed, which at length follow each other so speedily 
as to reduce the ice-masses between them to mere 
plates and wedges, along which the explorer has to 
creep cautiously. These plates and wedges are in 


some cases bent and crumpled by the lateral pressure, 
and some large pyramids are turned 90° round, 
so as to have their veins at right angles to the 
normal position. The ice afterwards descends the 
fall, the portions exposed to view being a fantastic 
assemblage of frozen boulders, pinnacles, and towers, 
some erect, some leaning, falling at intervals with a 
sound like thunder, and crushing the ice-crags on 
which they fall to powder. The descent of the ice 
through this fall has been referred to as a proof of 
its viscosity; but the description just given does not 
harmonise with our ideas of a viscous substance. 

But the proof of the non-viscosity of the substance 
must be sought at places where the change of incli- 
nation is very small. Nearly opposite 1' Angle there 
is a change from four to nine degrees, and the 
consequence is the production of transverse fissures 
which render the glacier here perfectly impassable. 
Further up the glacier transverse crevasses are pro- 
duced by a change of inclination from three to five 
degrees. This change of inclination is protracted 

Fig. 5. 

in fig. 5; the bend occurs at the point b; it is 

scarcely perceptible, and still the glacier is unable 

to pass over it without breaking across. 

Again, the crevasses being due to a state of strain 

from which the ice relieves itself by breaking, the 


rate at which they widen may be taken as a measure 
of the amount of relief demanded by the ice. Both 
the suddenness of their formation and the slowness 
with which they widen are demonstrative of the 
non-viscosity of the ice. For were the substance 
capable of stretching, even at the small rate at which 
they widen, there would be no necessity for their 

Further, the marginal crevasses of a glacier are 
known to be a consequence of the swifter flow of its 
central portions, which throws the sides into a state 
of strain from which they relieve themselves by 
breaking. Now it is easy to calculate the amount 
of stretching demanded of the ice in order to ac- 
commodate itself to the speedier central flow. Take 
the case of a glacier half a mile wide. A straight 
transverse element, or slice, of such a glacier, is 
bent in twenty-four hours to a curve. The ends of 
the slice move a little, but the centre moves more : 
let us suppose the versed side of the curve formed 
by the slice in twenty-four hours to be a foot, which 
is a fair average. Having the chord of this arc, and 
its versed side, we can calculate its length. In the 
case of the Mer de Grlace, which is about half a 
mile wide, the amount of stretching demanded 
would be about the eightieth of an inch in twenty- 
four hours. Surely, if the glacier possessed a pro- 
perty which could with any propriety be called 
viscosity, it ought to be able to respond to this 


moderate demand ; but it is not able to do so : 
instead of stretching as a viscous body, in obedience 
to this slow strain, it breaks as an eminently fragile 
one, and marginal crevasses are the consequence. 
It may be urged that it is not fair to distribute the 
strain over the entire length of the curve : but re- 
duce the distance as we may, a residue must remain, 
vhich is demonstrative of the non-viscosity of the ice. 
To sum up, then, two classes of facts present 
themselves to the glacier investigator — one class in 
harmony with the idea of viscosity, and another as 
distinctly opposed to it. Where pressure comes 
into play we have the former ; where tension comes 
into play we have the latter. Both classes of facts 
are reconciled by the assumption, or rather the 
experimental verity, that the fragility of ice 
and its power of regelation render it possible for 
it to change its form without prejudice to its 

[Very interesting experiments upon the bending of 
ice have been recently made by Mr. Matthews and 
Mr. Froude. In these experiments the temperature 
of the ice, I believe, was some degrees below the 
freezing point : it would be important to repeat 
these experiments with ice at the temperature 
which it actually possesses in glaciers, namely, at 
32°.— April 1871.] 




Being desirous of examining how the interior of a 
mass of ice is affected by a beam of radiant heat 
sent through it, I availed myself of the sunny 
weather of September . and October 1857. The 
sunbeams, condensed by a lens, were sent in various 
directions through slabs of ice. The path of every 
beam was observed to be instantly studded with 
lustrous spots, which increased in magnitude and 
number as the action continued. On examining 
the spots more closely, they were found to be 
flattened spheroids, and around each of them the ice 
was so liquefied as to form a beautiful flower-shaped 
figure possessing six petals. From this number there 
was no deviation. At first the edges of the liquid 
leaves were unindented ; but a continuance of the 
action usually caused the edges to become serrated 
like those of ferns. When the ice was caused to 
move across the beam, or when the beam was caused 
to traverse different portions of the ice in succession, 
the sudden generation and crowding together ot 
these liquid flowers, with their central spots shining 


with more than metallic brilliancy, was exceedingly 

In almost all cases the flowers were formed in 
planes parallel to the surface of freezing ; it mat- 
tered not whether the beam traversed the ice 
parallel to this surface or perpendicular to it. 
Some apparent exceptions to this rule were found, 
which will form the subject of future investigation. 

The general appearance of the shining spots at 
the centres of the flowers was that of the bubbles of 
air entrapped in the ice ; to examine whether they 
contained air or not, portions of ice containing them 
were immersed in warm water. When the ice sur- 
rounding the cavities had completely melted, the 
latter instantly collapsed, and no trace of air rose to 
the surface of the water. A vacuum, therefore, had 
been formed at the centre of each spot, due, doubt- 
less, to the well-known fact that the volume of 
water in each flower was less than that of the ice, 
by the melting of which the flower was produced. 

The associated air-and-water cells, found in such 
numbers in the ice of glaciers, and also observed in 
lake ice, were next examined. Two hypotheses have 
been started to account for these cells. One at- 
tributes them to the absorption of the sun's heat by 
the air of the bubbles, and the consequent melting 
of the ice which surrounds them. The other 
hypothesis supposes that the liquid in the cells 


never has been frozen, but has continued in the 
liquid condition from the neve or origin of the 
glacier downwards. Now if the water in the cells 
be due to the melting of the ice, the associated air 
must be rarefied, because the volume of the liquid 
is less than that of the ice which produced it ; 
whereas if the air be simply that entrapped in 
the snow of the neve, it w 7 ill not be thus rarefied. 
Here, then, we have a test as to whether the water- 
cells have been produced by the melting of the ice. 

Portions of ice containing these compound cells 
were immersed in hot water, the ice around the 
cavities being thus gradual ly melted away. "When 
a liquid connexion was established between the 
bubble and the atmosphere, the former collapsed to 
a smaller bubble. In many cases the residual 
bubble did not reach the hundredth part of the 
magnitude of the primitive one. There was no 
exception to this rule, and it proves that the water 
of these particular cavities, at all events, is really 
due to the melting of the adjacent ice. 

But how was the ice surrounding the bubbles 
melted ? The hypothesis that the melting is due 
to the absorption of the solar rays by the air of the 
bubbles is that of M. Agassiz, which has been re- 
produced and subscribed to by the Messrs. Schla- 
gintweit, and accepted generally as the true one* 
Let us pursue it to its consequences. 


Comparing equal weights of air and water, 
experiment proves that to raise a given weight of 
•rater one degree in temperature, as much heat 
would be needed as would raise the same weight of 
air four degrees. 

Comparing equal volumes of air and water, the 
water is known to be 770 times heavier than the 
air ; consequently, for a given volume of air to raise 
an equal volume of water one degree in temperature, 
it must part with 770 x 4 = 3080 degrees. 

Now the quantity of heat necessary to melt a 
given weight of ice would raise the same weight of 
water 142*6 Fahr. degrees in temperature. Hence 
to produce, by the melting of ice, an amount of 
water equal to itself in bulk, a bubble of air must 
yield up 3080 x 142*6, or upwards of four hundred 
thousand degrees Fahrenheit. 

This is the amount of heat which, according 
to the hypothesis of M. Agassiz and the Messrs. 
Schlagintweit, is absorbed by the bubble of air 
under the eyes of the observer. That is to say, the 
air is capable of absorbing an amount of heat which, 
had it not been communicated to the surrounding 
ice, would raise the bubble to a temperature 160 
times that of fused cast iron. Did air possess this 
enormous power of absorption it would not be with- 
out inconvenience for the animal and vegetable life 
of our planet. 


The fact is, that a bubble of air at the earth's 
surface is unable, in the slightest appreciable degree, 
to absorb the sun's rays ; for those rays before they 
reach the earth have been perfectly sifted by their 
passage through the atmosphere. I made the 
following experiment illustrative of this point : The 
rays from an electric lamp were condensed by a lens, 
and the concentrated beam sent through the bulb 
of a differential thermometer. The heat of the 
beam was intense ; still not the slightest effect was 
produced upon the thermometer. In fact, all the 
rays that air could absorb had been absorbed before 
the thermometer was reached, while the rays that 
glass could absorb had been absorbed by the lens. 
The heat consequently passed through the thin 
glass envelope of the thermometer, and the air 
within it, without imparting the slightest sensible 
heat to either. 

The liquid bubbles observed in lake ice, and those 
which occur in the deeper portions of glacier ice, are 
produced by heat which has been conducted through 
the substance without melting it. Regarding heat 
as a mode of motion, it seems natural to infer, that 
inasmuch as within the mass each molecule is con- 
trolled in its motion by the surrounding molecules, 
the liberty of liquidity must be attained by the 
molecules at the surface of ice before the molecules 
in the interior can attain this liberty. But if a 


cavity exist in the interior, the molecules surround- 
ing that cavity are in a condition similar to those 
at the surface ; and they may be liberated by an 
amount of motion which has been transmitted 
through the ice without prejudice to its solidity. 
The conception is helped when we call to mind the 
transmission of motion through a series of elastic 
balls, by which the last ball of the series is detached, 
while the others do not suffer visible separation. 
It may indeed be proved, by actual experiment, 
that the interior portion of a mass of ice can be 
liquefied by an amount of heat which has been 
conducted through the exterior portions without 
melting them. 

Now precisely the converse of this takes place 
when two pieces of ice, at 32° Fahr., with moist 
surfaces, are brought into contact. Superficial 
portions are by this act transferred to the centre 
where a temperature of 32° is not quite sufficient 
to produce liquefaction. The motion of liquidity 
which the surfaces possessed before contact is now 
checked, and the pieces of ice freeze together. This 
appears to furnish a satisfactory explanation of all 
the cases of this nature which have hitherto been 

The particles of a crushed mass of ice at 32°, or a 
ball of moist snow, may, it is now well known, be 
squeezed into slabs or cups of ice. That moisture ia 


accessary here, and that the same agent is necessary 
in the conversion of snow into glacier ice, was proved 
by the following experiment. A ball of ice was 
cooled in a bath of solid carbonic acid and ether, 
and thus rendered perfectly dry. Placed in a suit- 
able mould, and subjected to hydraulic pressure, 
the ball was crushed ; but the crushed fragments 
remained as white and opaque as those of crushed 
glass. The particles, while thus dry, could not be 
squeezed so as to form pellucid ice, which is so 
easily obtained when the compressed mass is at a 
temperature of 32° Fahr. 




If a transparent colourless solid be reduced to 
powder, the powder is white. Thus rock crystal, 
rock salt, and glass in powder are all white. A glass 
jar, partially filled with a solution of carbonate of 
soda, with a little gum added to give it tenacity, 
presents, on the addition of a little tartaric acid, the 
appearance of a tall white column of foam. In all 
these cases, the whiteness and the opacity are due 
to the intimate and irregular admixture of a solid 
or a liquid with air ; in like manner the whiteness 
of snow is due to the mixture of air and transparent 
particles of ice. 

The snow falls upon mountain eminences, and, 
above the snow-line, each year leaves a residue ; the 
substance thus collects in layers, forming masses of 
great depth. The lower portions are squeezed by 
the pressure of those above them, and a gradual 
approach to ice is the consequence. The air being 
gradually expelled, the transparency of the substance 
augments in proportion. 


But even after the snow has been squeezed to 
hard ice in the upper glacier region, it always con- 
tains a large amount of the air originally entrapped 
in the snow. The air is distributed through the 
solid in the form of bubbles, which give the ice a 
milky appearance. At the lower extremity of a 
glacier the ice, as everybody knows, is blue and 
transparent. The transition from one state to the 
other is .not, in all cases, a gradual change which 
takes place uniformly throughout the entire mass. 
The white ice, on the contrary, of the middle 
glacier region is usually striped by veins of a more 
transparent character, the air which gives to the ice 
its whiteness having been, by some means or other, 
wholly or partially ejected from the veins. These 
veins sometimes give the ice of many glaciers 
a beautiful laminated appearance ; vast portions, 
indeed, of various glaciers consist of this laminated 

The theory of the veins which perhaps first pre- 
sents itself to the mind, and which is still enter- 
tained by many intelligent Alpine explorers, is that 
the veining of the middle glaciers is simply a con- 
tinuation of the bedding of the neve ; that not only 
do the annual snow-falls produce beds of great 
thickness, but every successive fall tends to produce 
a layer of less thickness, which layers, or the surfaces 
separating them, ultimately appear as the blue veins. 


This theory demands respectful consideration : 
on the exposed sections of the neve the lines of 
stratification are very manifest, exhibiting in many 
cases appearances strongly resembling that of the 
veined structure. Indeed, it was with a view to 
examine this subject more closely that I withheld 
my observations on the structure of the Mer de 
Grlace in 1857, and betook myself once more to the 
mountains during the summer of 1858. My desire 
at that time was to settle once for all the rival 
claims of the only two theories which then deserved 
seriou/i attention — namely, those of pressure and 
of stratification. 

In pursuance of this idea, I first visited the Lower 
glacier of Grrindelwald, one of the most accessible, 
and at the same time most instructive, in the entire 
range of the Alps. Ascending the branch of this 
glacier which descends from the Schreckhorn, the 
Strahleck, and the Finsteraarhorn, I came to the 
base of an ice-fall which forbade further advance. 
Quitting the glacier here, I ascended the side of 
the flanking mountain, so as to reach a point from 
which the fall, and the glacier below it, are dis- 
tinctly visible ; and from this position I observed 
the gradual development and perfecting of the 
structure at the base of the fall. On the middle of 
the fall itself no trace of the structure was manifest ; 
but where the glacier changed its v inclination at the 


bottom, being bent upwards so as throw its surface 
into a state of intense longitudinal compression, 
the blue veins first made their appearance. The 
base of the fall was a true structure mill, where 
the transverse veins were manufactured, being after- 
wards sent forward, giving a character to portions of 
the glacier which had no share in their formation. 

I afterwards examined the fall from the opposite 
side of the valley, and corroborated the observations. 
It is difficult, in words, to convey the force of the 
evidence which this glacier presents to the observer 
who sees it ; it seems in fact like a grand laboratory 
experiment made by Nature herself with especial 
reference to the point in question. The squeezing 
of the mass, its yielding to the force brought to bear 
upon it, its wrinkling and scaling off, and the ap- 
pearance of the veins at the exact point where the 
pressure begins to manifest itself, leave no doubt on 
the mind that pressure and structure stand to each 
other in the relation of cause and effect, and that 
the stratification could have nothing to do with the 

I subsequently crossed the Strahleck, descended 
the glaciers of the Aar, crossed the Grimsel, and 
examined the glacier of the Rhone. This glacier 
has also its grand ice-fall. In company with Prof. 
Ramsay, I climbed ir> 1858 the precipices flanking 
the fall at the Grimsel side. What has been 


stated regarding the Grindelwald ice-fall is true of 
that of the Khone ; the base of the cascade is the 
manufactoi i y of the structure ; and, as all the ice 
has to pass through this mill, the entire mass of the 
glacier from the base of the fall downwards is beau- 
tifully laminated. 

Descending the valley of the Rhone to Viesch, 
I went thence to the iEggischhorn, and remained 
for eight days in the vicinity of the Great Aletsch 
glacier — the noblest ice-stream of the Alps. A 
highly intelligent explorer had adduced certain 
phenomena of this glacier as an evidence against 
the pressure theory of the veined structure ; and I 
did not think myself justified in quitting the place 
until I had perfectly satisfied myself that the Aletsch 
not only presented no phenomena at variance with the 
pressure theory, but exhibited some which seemed 
fatal to the theory of the stratification. 

I subsequently proceeded to Zermatt, and spent 
ten days on the RifFelberg, exploring the entire 
system of glaciers between Monte Rosa and the 
Mont Cervin. These glaciers exhibit, perhaps in a 
more striking manner than any others in the Alps, 
the yielding of glacier ice when subjected to intense 
pressure. The great western glacier of Monte Rosa, 
the Schwartze glacier, the Trifti glacier, and the gla- 
ciers of St. Theodule, are first spread out as wide and 
extensive neves over the breasts of the mountains, 


They move down, and are finally forced into the 
valley containing the trunk, or Gorner glacier. 
Here they are squeezed to narrow strips, which 
gradually dwindle in width until they form driblets 
not more than a few yards across. From the 
Gorner Grat, or from the summit of the Kiffelhorn, 
these parallel strips of glacier, each separated from 
its neighbour by a medial moraine, present a most 
striking and instructive appearance. 

The structure of these glaciers was carefully 
examined, and in all cases as I travelled from 
regions where the pressure was feeble to others 
where it was intense, the ice changed from a state 
almost, if not entirely, structureless, to one in which 
the veiningwas exhibited in great perfection. Each 
glacier, for example, where it met the opposing 
mass in the trunk valley, and was pressed against 
the latter by the thrust from behind, exhibited a 
beautifully developed structure. 

Proofs have been already adduced that the Glacier 
du Geant is in a state of longitudinal compression ; 
it has also been shown that the seams of white ice 
which intersect this glacier are due to the filling up 
of the channels of glacier streams by snow, and the 
subsequent compression of the substance. Here, 
tli en, we have a vast ice-press which furnishes us 
with a test of the pressure theory. Both in 1857 
and 1858 I found many of these seams of white ice 


intersected by blue veins of the finest and most 
distinct character, their general direction being at 
right angles to the direction of pressure. 

But the notions of M. Agassiz as to the turning 
up of the strata so as to expose their edges at the 
surface, and the acute remarks and arguments of 
Mr. John Ball on the same subject, might still 
cast a doubt upon the pressure theory, by suggesting 
a possible, though extremely improbable, explanation 
of the structure in accordance with the theory of 

Hence my strong desire to discover some crucial 
phenomenon which should set this question for ever 
at rest, and leave no room for doubt, even on the 
minds of those who never saw a glacier. On 
Wednesday, August 18, I was fortunate enough to 
make this discovery upon the Furgge glacier. 

This ice-field spreads out as an almost level plain 
at the base of Mont Cervin. The strata pile them- 
selves one above the other without disturbance, and 
hence with great regularity. The ice at length 
teaches a brow, over which it is precipitated, form- 
ing in its descent four great terraces, and shutting 
up the lower valley as a cul tie sac. When I reached 
this place huge blocks of ice stood, like rocking 
atones, upon the topmost ledge, and numbers, whicn 
had fallen, had been caught by the other ledges, 
and occupied very threatening positions: the base 


of the fall was cumbered with crushed ice, and large 
boulders of the substance had been cast a consider- 
able way down the glacier. 

On the faces of the terraces horizontal lines of 
stratification were shown in the most perfect manner. 
Here and there the exertion of a powerful lateral 
squeeze was manifest, causing the beds to crumple, 
and producing numerous faults. Examining the 
fall from a distance through an opera-glass, I thought 
I could discover lines of veining running through 
the strata, at a high angle, exactly as the planes of 
cleavage often run at a high angle to the bedding of 
slate rocks. The surface of the ice was, however, 
weathered ; and I was unwilling to accept an obser- 
vation upon such a cardinal point with a shade of 
doubt attached to it. Leaving my field-glass with my 
guide, who was to give me warning should the blocks 
overhead give way, I advanced to the wall of ice, 
and at several places cut away with my axe the 
weathered superficial portions. Underneath I found 
the true veined structure, running nearly at right 
angles to the planes of stratification. 

I afterwards climbed the glacier to the right, and, 
as I ascended, still better illustrations of the co- 
existence of the structure and the strata than those 
observed upon the terraces exhibited themselves. 
The ice was greatly dislocated, and on the faces of 


the crevasses the beds were distinctly shown, with 
the veins crossing them. The idea that the veins 
could be due to the turning up of the strata is 
plainly irreconcileable with these observations. 

The same year I visited the Mer de Glace and 
its tributaries, and found the pressure key applic- 
able to their phenomena also. The transverse 
structure of the Glacier du Geant is formed at the 
base of the seracs ; that of the Talefre branch of the 
Mer de Glace at the base of the Talefre ice-fall, 
where the change of inclination and the thrust 
from behind produce the requisite longitudinal com- 
pression. I have already had occasion to remark 
upon the peculiar dipping of the structure, and the 
scaling-off of the protuberances, which are effects 
of the same cause. These phenomena are exhibited 
at the base of all the ice-cascades. 

The principal kinds of structure may be divided 
into three ; as follows : 

1st, Marginal structure, developed by pressure 
due to the swifter motion of the centre of the 

2nd, Longitudinal structure, due to mutual 
pressure of two tributary glaciers ; the structure 
here is parallel to the medial moraine which divides 
the tributaries. 

3rd, Transverse structure, produced by pressure 


due to the change of inclination, and to the longi- 
tudinal thrust endured by the glacier at the base 
of an ice-fall. 

The lamination of a glacier is a peculiarly inter- 
esting case of cleavage. It is produced in the same 
manner as the lamination of slate rock, which is 
known, through the distortion of its fossils, to have 
suffered great pressure at right angles to the planes 
of cleavage. 




Switzerland has attractions for the scientific 
philosophers of Germany, and around the Tit lis, 
Bunsen, Helmholtz, Kirchhoff, and Wiedemann are 
not unfamiliar names. Nor have their visits to the 
Alps been unproductive of results. Some time ago 
I was favoured by Professor Helmholtz with the 
First Part of his ' Popular Scientific Lectures.' It 
contains four of them — the first, ' On the Relation 
of the Natural Sciences to Science in general ; ' the 
second, ' On Goethe's Labours in Natural Science ; ' 
the third, ' On the Physiological Origin of Musical 
Harmony;' and the fourth, 'On Ice and Glaciers.' 
The lectures are in German, and it is much to be 
desired that some competent person should under- 
take their translation into English. 1 

I turned with natural interest to the last-men- 
tioned discourse, to see how my notions and experi- 
ments on the formation and motion of glaciers were 

1 I have reason to believe that a translation of the two part* 
hitherto published will soon be forthcoming. — J. T., 1871. 


regarded by so eminent a man. I will here en- 
deavour to give a summary of the scientific portion 
of the lecture. 

Professor Helmholtz refers the cold of the upper 
regions of the atmosphere to the causes generally 
assigned ; but he adds a remark important at the 
present moment, when the origin of the hot wind 
called Fohn in Switzerland is the subject of so 
much discussion. This wind, as Helmholtz justly 
observes, may not only be a cold wind upon the 
mountain-summits, but a wet one, and it may 
deposit its moisture there. A wind thus dried upon 
the heights, and warmed by its subsequent fall into 
the valleys, would possess the heat and dryness of 
the Fohn. These qualities are, therefore, no proof 
that the origin of the Fohnwind is Sahara. 

It will probably be remembered that I deduced 
the formation of glaciers, and their subsequent 
motion through valleys of varying width and flexure, 
from the fact that when two pieces of ice are pressed 
together they freeze together at their places of 
contact. This fact was first mentioned to me 
verbally by its discoverer, Faraday. Soon after- 
wards, and long before I had occasion to reflect 
upon its cause, the application of the fact to tlie 
formation and motion of glaciers flashed upon me. 
Snow was in the yard of the Eoyal Institution at the 
time ; stuffing a quantity of it into a steel mould, 

18C r ,] 



which I had previously employed to demonstrate 
*he influence of pressure on magnetic phenomena, 
I squeezed the snow, and had the pleasure of seeing 
it turn out from the mould as a cylinder of trans- 

Fig. 6. 

lucent ice. I immediately went to Faraday, and 
expressed the conviction that his little outlying 
experiment would be found to constitute the basis 
of a true theory of glaciers. It became subsequently 
known to me that the Messrs. Schlaaintweit had 


made a similar experiment with snow; but they did 
not connect with it the applications which suggested 
themselves to me, and which have since been de- 
veloped into a theory of glacier-motion. 

A section of the mould used in the experiment 
above referred to is given in the foregoing figure. 
a B is the solid base of the »mould ; c d e f a hollow 
cylinder let into the base ; p is the solid plug used 
to compress the snow. When sufficiently squeezed, 
the bottom, a b, is removed, and the cylinder of 
ice is pushed out by the plug. The mould closely 
resembles one of those employed by Professor 

The subsequent development of the subject by 
the moulding of ice into various forms by pressure 
is too well known to need dwelling upon here. In 
applying these results to glaciers, I dwelt with 
especial emphasis upon the fact that while the 
power of being moulded by pressure belonged in an 
eminent degree to glacier ice, the power of yielding, 
by stretching, to a force of tension, was sensibly 
wanting. On this point Prof. Helmholtz speaks 
as follows : i Tyndall in particular maintained, 
and proved by calculation and measurement, that 
the ice of a glacier does not stretch in the smallest 
degree when subjected to tension — that when suf- 
ficiently strained it always breaks ; ' and he adds, 
in another place, that the property thus revealed 




establishes ' an essential difference between a stream 
of ice, and one of lava, tar, honey, or mud.' 

In the beautiful experiments of M. Tresca re- 
cently executed, the power of ice to mould itself 
under pressure has been very strikingly illustrated. 
Professor Helmholtz also, in the presence of his 
audiences at Heidelberg and Frankfort, illustrated 
this property in various ways. From snow and 
Fig. 7 Fig. 8. 

broken fragments of ice he formed cakes and 
cylinders ; and uniting the latter, end to end, he 
permitted them to freeze together to long sticks of 
ice. Placing, moreover, in a suitable mould a 
cylinder of ice of the shape represented in fig. 7, he 
squeezed it into the cake represented in fig. 8. In 
fact he corroborated, by a series of striking experi- 
mental devices of his own the results previously 
obtained by myself. 


With regard to the application of these results 
to the phenomena of glaciers, Professor Helmholtz, 
after satisfying himself of the insufficiency of other 
hypotheses, thus finally expresses his conviction : 
' I do not doubt that Tyndall has assigned the 
essential and principal cause of glacier-motion, in 
referring it to fracture and regelation.' 

It is perhaps worth stating that the term ' re- 
gelation ' was first introduced in a paper published 
by Mr. Huxley and myself more than seven years 
after the discovery of the fact by Faraday, and that 
it was suggested to us by our friend Dr. Hooker, 
Director of the Royal Gardens at Kew. As already 
remarked, the formation and motion of glaciers, and 
other points of a kindred nature, had been referred 
to regelation long before I occupied myself with the 
cause of regelation itself. This latter question is 
not once referred to in the memoir in which the 
regelation theory was first developed. 1 The en- 
quiries, though related, were different. In referring 
the motion of glaciers to a fact experimentally 
demonstrated, I referred it to its 'proximate cause. 
To refer that cause to its physical antecedents 
formed the subject of a distinct enquiry, in which, 
because of my belief in the substantial correctness of 
Faraday's explanation, I took comparatively little 

1 Phil. Trans, vol. cxlvii. p. 327. 


Five persons, however, mingled more or less 
in the enquiry — viz. Professor Faraday, Principal 
Forbes, Professor James Thomson, Professor (now 
Sir) William Thomson, and myself. 1 Professor James 
Thomson explained regelation by reference to an 
important deduction, first drawn by him, 2 and almost 
simultaneously by Professor Clausius, 3 from the 
mechanical theory of heat. He had shown it to be 
a consequence of this theory that the freezing-point 
of water must be lowered by pressure ; that is to 
say, water when subjected to pressure will remain 
liquid at a temperature below that at which it would 
freeze if the pressure were removed. This theoretic 
deduction was confirmed in a remarkable manner by 
the experiments of his brother. 4 Eegelation, accord- 
ing to James Thomson's theory, was thus accounted 
for : ' When two pieces of ice are pressed together, 
or laid the one upon the other, their compressed 
parts liquefy. The water thus produced has ren- 
dered latent a portion of the heat of the surround- 
ing ice, and must therefore be lower than 0° C. 
in temperature. On escaping from the pressure 
this water refreezes and cements the pieces of ice 

1 Proc. Roy. Soc. vol. ix. p. 141 ; and vol. x. p. 152. Phil. Mag. 
8. 4, vol. xvi. pp. 347 and 514 ; and vol. xvii. p. 16'J. 

2 Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinb. February 1 850. 
* Pogg. Ann. vol. lxxxi. p. 168. 

4 Phil. Mag. August 1850. 


I always admitted that this explanation dealt with 
a i true cause.' But considering the infinitesimal 
magnitude of the pressure sufficient to produce re- 
gelation, in common with Professor Faraday and 
Principal Forbes, I deemed the cause an insufficient 
one. Professor James Thomson, moreover, grounded 
upon the foregoing theory of regelation a theory of 
glacier-motion, in which he ascribed the changes of 
form which a glacier undergoes to the incessant 
liquefaction of the ice at places where the pressure 
is intense, and the refreezing, in other positions, of 
the water thus produced. 1 I endeavoured to show 
that this theory was inapplicable to the facts. 
Professor Helmholtz has recently subjected it to the 
test of experiment, and the conclusions which he 
draws from his researches are substantially the same 
as mine. 

Thus, then, as regards the incapacity of the ice 
on which my observations were made to stretch in 
obedience to tension, and its capacity to be moulded 
to any extent by pressure — as regards the essential 
difference between a glacier, and a stream of lava, 
honey, or tar — as regards the sufficiency of pressure 
and regelation to account for the formation of 
glaciers, and of fracture and regelation to account 
for their motion — as regards, finally, the insuf- 
ficiency of the theory which refers the motion to 

1 Proc, Roy. Soc. vol. viii. p. 455. 


liquefaction by pressure, and refreezing, the views 
of Professor Helmholtz and myself appear to be 

But the case is different with regard to the cause 
of regelation itself. Here Professor Helmholtz, like 
M. Jamin, 1 accepts the clear and definite explanation 
of Professor James Thomson as the most satisfactory 
that has been advanced ; and he supports this view 
by an experiment so beautiful that it cannot fail to 
give pleasure even to those against whose opinions 
it is adduced. But before passing to the experiment, 
which is described in the Appendix to the lecture, 
it will be well to give in the words of Professor 
Helmholtz the views which he expresses in the body 
of his discourse. 

6 You will now ask with surprise,' he says, ' how it 
is that ice, the most fragile and brittle of all known 
solid substances, can flow in a glacier like a viscous 
mass ; and you may perhaps be inclined to regard 
this as one of the most unnatural and paradoxical 
assertions that ever was made by a natural phi- 
losopher. I will at once admit that the enquirers 
themselves were in no small degree perplexed by the 
results of their investigations. But the facts were 
there, and could not be dissipated by denial. How 
this kind of motion on the part of ice was possible 
remained long an enigma — the more so as the known 

1 ' Traite de Physique,' vol. ii. p. 105. 


brittlen ess of ice also manifested itself in glaciers by 
the formation of numerous fissures. This, as Tyndall 
rightly maintained, constituted an essential differ- 
ence between the ice-stream, and a stream of lava, 
tar, honey, or mud. 

' The solution of this wonderful enigma was found 
— as is often the case in natural science — in an ap- 
parently remote investigation on the nature of heat, 
which forms one of the most important conquests of 
modern physics, and which is known under the name 
of the mechanical theory of heat. Among a great 
number of deductions as to the relations of the most 
diverse natural forces to each other, the principles of 
the mechanical theory of heat enable us to draw 
certain conclusions regarding the dependence of the 
freezing-point of water on the pressure to which the 
ice and water are subjected.' 

Professor Helmholtz then explains to his audience 
what is meant by latent heat, and points out that, 
through the circulation of water in the fissures and 
capillaries of a glacier, its interior temperature must 
remain constantly at the freezing-point. 

• But,' he continues, ' the temperature of the 
freezing-point of water can be altered by pressure. 
This was first deduced by James Thomson, and 
almost simultaneously by Clausius, from the me- 
chanical theory of heat ; and by the same deduction 
even the magnitude of the change may be predicted 


For the pressure of every additional atmosphere, the 
freezing-point sinks o, 0075 C. The brother of the 
gentleman first named, William Thomson, the cele- 
brated Glasgow physicist, verified experimentally the 
theoretic deduction by compressing a mixture of ice 
and water in a suitable vessel. The mixture became 
colder and colder as the pressure was augmented, and 
by the exact amount which the mechanical theory of 
heat required. 

' If, then, by pressure a mixture of ice and water 
can be rendered colder without the actual abstraction 
of heat, this can only occur by the liquefaction of 
the ice and the rendering of heat latent. And this 
is the reason why pressure can alter the point of 

' In the experiment of William Thomson just 
referred to ice and water were enclosed in a solid 
vessel from which nothing could escape. The case 
is somewhat different when, as in the case of a 
glacier, the water of the compressed ice can escape 
through fissures. In this case the ice is compressed, 
but not the water which escapes. The pressed ice 
will become colder by a quantity corresponding to 
the lowering of its freezing-point by the pressure. 
But the freezing-point of the uncompressed water is 
not lowered. Here, then, we have ice colder than 
0° C. in contact with water at 0° C. The con- 
sequence is, that round the place of pressure the 


water v/ill freeze and form new ice, while, on the 
other hand, a portion of the compressed ice continues 
to be melted (wahrend dafiir ein Theil des gepressten 
Eises fortschmilzt). 

' This occurs, for instance, when two pieces of ice 
are simply pressed together. By the water which 
freezes at the points of contact they are firmly 
united to a continuous mass. When the pressure is 
considerable, and the chilling consequently great, the 
union occurs quickly, but it may also be effected by 
a very slight pressure if sufficient time be afforded. 
Faraday, who discovered this phenomenon, named it 
the vegetation of ice, 1 Its explanation has given 
rise to considerable controversy : I have laid that 
explanation before you which I consider to be the 
most satisfactory.' 

In the Appendix, Professor Helmholtz returns to 
the subject thus handled in the body of his dis- 
course. 'The theory of the regelation of ice, he 
observes, ' has given rise to a scientific discussion 
between Faraday and Tyndall on the one hand, and 
James and William Thomson on the other. In the 
text of this lecture I have adopted the theory of the 
latter, and have therefore to justify myself for so 
doing.' He then analyses the reasonings on both sides, 
points out the theoretic difficulties of Faraday's 

1 I have eorrectei this slight inadvertence. We owe the name 
to Hooker. 


explanation, shows what a small pressure can accom- 
plish if only sufficient time be granted to it, draws 
attention to the fact that when one piece of ice is 
placed upon another the pressure is not distributed 
over the whole of the two appressed surfaces, but is 
concentrated on a few points of contact. He also 
holds, with Professor James Thomson, that in an 
experiment devised by Principal Forbes even the 
capillary attraction exerted between two plates of 
ice is sufficient, in due time, to produce regelation. 
To illustrate the slow action of the small differences 
of temperature which here come into play Professor 
Helmholtz made the following experiment, to which 
reference has been already made. 

' A glass flask with a drawn-out neck was half 
filled with water, which was boiled until all the air 
above it was driven out. The flask was then her- 
metically sealed. When cooled, the flask was void 
of air, and the water within it freed from the 
pressure of the atmosphere. As the water thus 
prepared can be cooled considerably below 0° C. 
before the first ice is formed, while when ice is in 
the flask it freezes at 0° C. [why ? J. T.~], the flask 
was in the first instance placed in a freezing mixture 
until the water was changed into ice. It was after- 
wards permitted to melt slowly in a place the tem- 
perature of which was + 2° C, until the half of it 
was liquefied 



fc The flask thus half filled with water having a 
disk of ice swimming upon it was placed in a mix- 
ture of ice and water, being quite surrounded by the 
mixture. After an hour the disk within the flask was 
frozen to the glass. By shaking the flask the disk 
was liberated, but it froze again. This occurred as 
often as the shaking was repeated. The flask was 
permitted to remain for eight days in the mixture, 
which was preserved throughout at a temperature 
of 0° C. During this time a number of very regular 
and sharply defined ice-crystals were formed, and 
augmented very slowly in size. This is perhaps 
the best method of obtaining beautifully formed 
crystals of ice. 

6 While, therefore, the outer ice which had to 
support the pressure of the atmosphere slowly 
melted, the water within the flask, whose freezing- 
point, on account of a defect of pressure, was 
0°*0075 C. higher, deposited crystals of ice. The 
heat abstracted from the water in this operation 
had, moreover, to pass through the glass of the 
flask, which, together with the small difference of 
temperature, explains the slowness of the freezing 

A single additional condition in connection with 
this beautiful experiment I should like to have 
seen fulfilled — namely, that the water in which the 
flask was immersed, as well as that within it. should 




be purged of its air by boiling. It is just possible 
that the point of congelation may not be entirely 
independent of the presence of air in the water. 

The revival of this subject by Professor Helmholtz 
has caused me to make a few additional experi- 
ments on the moulding and regulation of ice. The 
following illustrates both : A quantity of snowy 
powder was scraped from a block of clear ice and 

Fig. 9. 

Fie. 10. 

placed in a boxwood mould having a shape like 
the foot of a claret-glass. The ice-powder being 
aqueezed by a hydraulic press, a clear mass of ice 
of the shape shown in section at the bottom of 
fig. 9 was the result. In another mould the same 
powder was squeezed so as to form small cylinders, 
three of which are shown separate in fig. 9. A third 
mould was then employed to form a cup of ice, 
which is shown at the top of fig. 9. Bringing alJ 




the parts into contact, they were cemented through 
regelation to form the claret-glass sketched in fig. 10, 
from which several draughts of wine might be taken, 
if the liquid were cooled sufficiently before pouring 
it into the cup of ice. 

There are brass shapes used for the casting of 
flowers and other objects which answer admirably 
for experiments on the regelation of ice. One of 

Fie. 11. 

them was purchased for me by Mr. Becker. Ice- 
powder squeezed into it regelated to a solid mass 
and came from the mould in the sharply defined 
form sketched in fig. 1 1 . 

I placed a small piece of ice in warm water and 
pressed it underneath the water by a second piece. 


The submerged morsel was so small that the vertical 
pressure was almost infinitesimal. It froze, not- 
withstanding, to the under surface of the superior 
piece of ice. Two pieces of ice were placed in a 
basin of warm water, and allowed to come together. 
They froze as soon as they touched each other. 
The parts surrounding the place of contact rapidly 
melted away, but the two pieces continued for a 
time united by a narrow bridge of ice. The bridge 
finally melted away, and the pieces were for a 
moment separated. But bodies which water wets, 
and against which it rises by capillary attraction, 
move spontaneously together upon water. The ice 
morsels did so, and immediately regulation again set 
in. A new bridge was formed, which in its turn was 
dissolved, and the pieces closed up as before. Thus 
a kind of pulsation was kept up by the two pieces 
of ice. They touched, froze, a bridge was formed 
and melted, leaving an interval between the pieces. 
Across this they moved, touched, froze, the same 
process being repeated over and over again. 

We have here the explanation of the curious fact 
that when several large lumps of ice are placed in 
warm water and allowed to touch each other, rege- 
lation is maintained among them as long as they 
remain undissolved. The final fragments may not 
be the one-hundredth part of the original one3 
in size ; but through the process just described, 


they incessantly lock themselves together until they 
finally disappear. 

According to Professor James Thomson's theory, 
to produce regelation the pieces of ice have to 
exercise pressure, in order to draw from the surround- 
ing ice the heat necessary for the liquefaction of the 
compressed part ; and then this water must escape 
and be refrozen. All this requires time. In the fore- 
going experiments, moreover, the water liquefied 
by the pressure issued into the surrounding warm 
water, but notwithstanding this the floating frag- 
ments regelated in a moment. It is not necessary 
that the touching surfaces should be flat ; for 
in this case a film of water might be supposed 
to exist between them of the temperature 0°C. 
The surfaces in contact may be convex : they 
may be virtual points that are about to touch 
each other, clasped all round by the warm liquid, 
which is rapidly dissolving them as they ap- 
proach. Still they freeze immediately when they 

There are two points urged by Helmholtz — one 
in favour of the view he has adopted, and the other 
showing a difficulty associated with the view of 
Faraday — on which a few words may be said. ' I 
found,' says Helmholtz, ' the strength and rapidity 
of the union of the pieces of ice in such com- 
plete correspondence with the amount of pressure 


employed, that I cannot doubt that the pressure is 
actually the sufficient cause of the union.' 

But, according to Faraday's explanation, the 
strength and quickness of the regelation must also 
go hand in hand with the magnitude of the pressure 
employed. Helmholtz rightly dwells upon the fact 
that the appressed surfaces are usually not perfectly 
congruent — that they really touch each other in a 
few points only, the pressure being, therefore, con- 
centrated. Now the effect of pressure exerted on 
two pieces of ice at a temperature of 0° C. is not 
only to lessen the thickness of the liquid film be- 
tween the pieces, but also to flatten out the appressed 
points, and thus to spread the film over a greatei 
space. On both theories, therefore, the strength 
and quickness of the regelation ought to correspond 
to the magnitude of the pressure. 

The difficulty referred to above is thus stated by 
Helmholtz : ' In the explanation given by Faraday, 
according to which the regelation is caused by a 
contact action of ice and water, I find a theoretic 
difficulty. By the freezing of the water a very 
sensible quantity of heat would be set free ; and it 
does not appear how this is to be disposed of.' 

On the part of those who accept Faraday's expla- 
nation, the answer here would be that the free heat 
is diffused through the adjacent ice. But against 
this it will doubtless be urged that ice already at a 


temperature of 0° C. cannot take up more heat 
without liquefaction. If this be true under all 
circumstances, Faraday's explanation must undoubt- 
edly be given up. But the essence of that expla- 
nation seems to be that the interior portions of a 
mass of ice require a higher temperature to dissolve 
them than, that sufficient to cause fusion at the 
surface. When therefore two moist surfaces of ice at 
the temperature 0° are pressed together, and when, 
in virtue of the contact action assumed by Faraday, 
the film of water between them is frozen, the 
adjacent ice (which is now in the interior, and not 
at the surface as at first) is in a condition to with- 
draw by conduction, and without prejudice to its 
own solidity, the small amount of heat set free. 
Once granting the contact action claimed by Fara- 
day, there seems to be no difficulty in disposing of 
the heat rendered sensible by the freezing of the film. 
When the year is advanced, and after the ice 
imported into London has remained a long time in 
store, if closely examined, parcels of liquid water 
will be found in the interior of the mass. I en- 
veloped ice containing such water-parcels in tinfoil, 
and placed it in a freezing mixture until the liquid 
parcels were perfectly congealed. Eemoving the 
ice from the freezing mixture, I placed it, covered 
by its envelope, in a dark room, and found, after a 
couple of hours' exposure to a temperature somewhat 


over 0° C, the frozen parcels again liquid. The 
heat which fused this interior ice passed through 
the firmer surrounding ice without the slightest 
visible prejudice to its solidity. But if the freezing 
temperature of the ice-parcels be 0° C, then the 
freezing temperature of the mass surrounding them 
must be higher than 0° C, which is what the expla- 
nation of Faraday requires. 

In a quotation at p. 389 I have attached to the 
description of a precaution taken by Professor Helm- 
holtz the query ' why ? ' He states that water freed 
of its air sinks, without freezing, to a temperature 
far below 0° C. ; while when a piece of ice is in 
the water it cannot so sink in temperature, but is 
invariably deposited in the solid form at 0° C. This 
surely proves ice to possess a special power of solidi- 
fication over water. It is needless to say that the 
fact is general — that a crystal of any salt placed in 
a saturated solution of the salt always provokes 
crystallisation. Applying this fact to the minute 
film of water enclosed between two appressed 
surfaces of ice, it seems to me in the highest degree 
probable that the contact action of Faraday will 
set in, that the film will freeze and cement the 
pieces of ice together. 1 

Apart from the present discussion, the following 

1 Both Professor llelmholtz and I have since agreed to consider 
%hf pl^-sieal cause of regelation an open question. 


observation is perhaps worth recording : It is well 
known that ice during a thaw disintegrates so as to 
form rude prisms whose axes are at right angles to 
the planes of freezing. I have often observed this 
action on a large scale during the winters that I 
spent as a student on the banks of the Lahn. The 
manner in which these prisms are in some cases 
formed is extremely interesting. On close inspec- 
tion, a kind of cloudiness is observed in the interior 
of a mass of apparently perfect ice. Looked at 
through a strong lens, this cloudiness appears as 
striae at right angles to the planes of freezing, and 
when the direction of vision is across these planes 
the ends of the striae are apparent. The spaces be- 
tween the striae are composed of clear unclouded ice 
When duly magnified, the objects which produce the 
striae turn out to be piles of minute liquid flowers, 
whose planes are at right angles to the direction of 
the striae. 

Since writing the above, I have been favoured 
with a copy of a discourse delivered by Professor 
De la Eive, at the opening of the forty-ninth meet- 
ing of the Societe Helvetique, which assembled in 
1865 at Geneva. From this admirable resume of 
our present knowledge regarding glaciers I make 
the following extract, which, together with those 
from the lecture of Helmholtz, will show sufficiently 


how the subject is now regarded by scientific men : 
* Such, gentlemen,' says M. De la Eive, 4 is a de- 
scription of the phenomena of glaciers, and it now 
remains to explain them, to consult observation, 
and deduce from it the fundamental character of 
the phenomena. Observation teaches us that gravity 
is the motive force, and that this force acts upon a 
solid body — ice — imparting to it a slow and con- 
tinuous motion. What are we to conclude from this ? 
That ice is a solid which possesses the property of 
flowing like a viscous body — a conclusion which 
appears very simple, but which was nevertheless 
announced for the first time hardly five-and-twent} 
years ago by one of the most distinguished philo- 
sophers of Scotland, Professor James D. Forbes. 
This theory, for it truly is a theory, basing itself on 
facts as numerous as they are well observed, enun- 
ciates the principle that ice possesses the character- 
istic properties which belong to plastic bodies. 
Although he did not directly prove it, to Professor 
Forbes belongs not the less the great merit of insist- 
ing on the plasticity of ice, before Faraday, in dis- 
covering the phenomenon of regelation, enabled 
Tyndall to prove that the plasticity was real, at 
least partially. 

' The experiment of Faraday is classical in con- 
nexion with our subject. It consists, as you knew, 
in this, that if two morsels of ice be brought into 


contact in water, which may be even warm, they 
freeze together. Tyndall immediately saw the ap- 
plication of Faraday's experiment to the theory of 
glaciers ; he comprehended that, since pieces of ice 
rould thus solder themselves together, the substance 
might be broken, placed in a mould, compressed, 
and thus compelled to take the form of the cavity 
which contained it. A wooden mould, for example, 
embraces a spherical cavity ; placing in it frag- 
ments of ice and squeezing them, we obtain an ice 
sphere ; placing this sphere in a second mould with 
a lenticular cavity and pressing it, we transform the 
sphere into a lens. In this way we can impart any 
form whatever to ice. 

' Such is the discovery of Tyndall, which may well 
be thus named, particularly in view of its conse- 
quences. For all these moulds magnified become 
the borders of the valley in which a glacier flows. 
Here the action of the hydraulic press which has 
served for the experiments of the laboratory is re- 
placed \,y the weight of the masses of snow and ice 
collected on the summits, and exerting their pres- 
sure on the ice which descends into the valley. 
Supposing, for example, between the spherical mould 
and the lenticular one, a graduated series of other 
moulds to exist, each of which differs very little from 
the one which precedes and from that which follows 
it, and that a mass of ice could be made to pass 


through all these moulds in succession, the pheno- 
menon would then become continuous. Instead nT 
rudely breaking, the ice would be compelled to change 
by insensible degrees from the spherical to the 
lenticular form. It would thus exhibit a plasticitv 
which might be compared to that of soft wax. But 
ice is only plastic under pressure ; it is not plastic 
under tension : and this is the important point which 
the vague theory of plasticity was unable to explain. 
While a viscous body, like bitumen or honey, may 
be drawn out in filaments by tension, ice, far from 
stretching in this way, breaks like glass under this 
action. These points well established by Tyndall, it 
became easy for him to explain the mechanism of 
glaciers, and by the aid of an English geometer, Mr. 
William Hopkins, to show how the direction of the 
crevasses of a glacier are the necessary consequences 
of its motion.' 

I have quite recently had a mould constructed for 
me by Mr. Becker, 1 and yesterday (November 16, 
1 865) made with it an experiment which, on account 
of the ease with which it may be performed, will in- 
terest all those who care about exhibiting in a strik- 
ing and instructive manner the effects of regelatiou. 

1 I am continually indebted to this able mechanism for prorupl 
and intelligent aid in the carrying out of my ideas. 




The mould is shown in fig. 12. It consists of two 
pieces of cast iron, A b c andD f g, slightly wedge- 
shaped and held together by the iron rectangle r e 
which is slipped over them. The inner face of a r 
c is shown in fig. 13. In it is hollowed out a semi- 
ring IN, with a semi cylindrical passage o leading 

into it. The inner face of d f g is similarly hol- 
lowed out, so that when both faces are placed 
together, as in fig. 12, they enclose a ring 4 inches in 
external diameter, from m to N, and £ of an inch in 
thickness, with the passage o, 1 inch in diameter, 




into which fits the polished iron plug p. At q and 
r, fig. 13, are little pins which, fitting into holes 
corresponding to them, keep the slabs A b c and dfg 
from sliding over each other. 

The mould being first cooled by placing it for a 
short time in a mixture of ice and water, fragments 
of ice are stuffed into the orifice o and driven down 

Fig. 13. 

Fig. 14. 

with a hammer by means of the plug p. The bruised 
and broken ice separates at x, one portion going to 
the right, the other to the left. Driving the ice 
thus into tJie mould, piece after piece, it is finally 
filled. By removing the rectangle R e, the two 


halves of the mould are then separated, and a per- 
fect ring of ice is found within. Two such lings 
soldered by regelation at a are shown in fig. 14. It 
would be easy thus to construct a chain of ice. An 
hydraulic press may of course be employed in this 
experiment, but it is not necessary ; with the hammer 
and plug beautiful rings of ice are easily obtained 
by the regelation of the crushed fragments. 

I have now to add the description of an experiment 
which suggested itself to my ingenious friend Mr. 
Duppa, when he saw the ice-rings just referred to, 
and which was actually executed by him yesterday 
(the 16th) in the laboratory of the Eoyal Institution. 
Pouring a quantity of plaster of paris into a proper 
vessel, an ice-ring was laid upon the substance, an 
additional quantity of the cement being then 
poured over the ring. The plaster ' set,' enclosing 
the ring within it : the ring soon melted, leaving its 
perfect matrix behind. The mould was permitted to 
dry, and, molten lead being poured into the space 
previously occupied by the ice, a leaden ring was 
produced. Now ice can be moulded into any shape : 
statuettes, vases, flowers, and innumerable other 
ornaments can be formed from it. These enclosed 
in cement, in the manner suggested by Mr. Duppa, 
remain intact sufficiently long to enable the cement 
to set around them ; they afterwards melt and dis- 
appear, leaving behind them perfect plaster moulds, 
from which casts can be taken. 

CL0UD3. 405 



From every natural fact invisible relations radiate, 
the apprehension of which imparts a measure of 
delight; and there is a store of pleasure of this 
kind ever at hand for those who have the capacity 
to turn natural appearances to account. It is 
pleasant, for example, to lie on one's back upon a 
dry green slope and watch the clouds forming and 
disappearing in the blue heaven. A few days back 
the firmament was mottled with floating cumuli, 
from the fringes of which light of dazzling white- 
ness was reflected downwards, while the chief mass 
of the clouds lay in dark shadow. From the edge of 
one large cloud-field stretched small streamers, wbich, 
when attentively observed, were seen to disappear 
gradually, and finally to leave no trace upon the 
blue sky. On the opposite fringe of the same 
cloud, and beyond it, small patches of milky mist 
would appear, and curdle up, so as to form little 
cloudlets as dense apparently as the large mass be- 
side which they were formed. The counter processes 
of production and cjnsumption were evidently 


406 CLOUDS. 

going on at opposite sides of the cloud. Even in 
the midst of the serene firmament, where a moment 
previously the space seemed absolutely void, white 
cloud-patches were formed, their sudden appearance 
exciting that kind of surprise which might be 
supposed to accompany the observation of a direct 
creative act. 

These clouds were really the indicators of what 
was going on in the unseen air. Without them no 
motion was visible ; but their appearance and dis- 
appearance proved not only the existence of motion, 
but also the want of homogeneity in the atmo- 
sphere. Though we did not see them, currents 
were mingling, possessing different temperatures and 
carrying different loads of invisible watery vapour 
We know that clouds are not true vapour, but 
vapour precipitated by cold to water. We know 
also that the amount of water which the air can 
hold in the invisible state depends upon its tempe- 
rature ; the higher the temperature of the air, the 
more water will it be able to take up. But, when 
a portion of warm air, carrying its invisible charge, 
is invaded by a current of low temperature, the 
chilled vapour is precipitated, and a cloud is the 
consequence. In this way two parcels of moist air, 
each of which taken singly may be perfectly trans- 
parent, can produce by their mixture an opaque 
cloud. In the same way a body of clear humid air, 

CLOUDS. 407 

when it strikes the cold summit of a mountain, may 
render that mountain 'cloud-capped.' 

An illustration of this process, which occurred 
some years ago in a Swedish ball-room, is recounted 
by Professor Dove. The weather was clear and 
cold, and the ball-room was clear and warm. A 
lady fainted, and air was thought necessary to her 
restoration. A military officer present tried to open 
the window, but it was frozen fast. He broke the 
window with his sword, the cold air entered, and 
it snowed in the room. A minute before this all 
was clear, the warm air sustaining a large amount 
of moisture in a transparent condition. When the 
colder air entered, the vapour was first condensed 
and then frozen. The admission of cool air even 
into our London ball-rooms produces mistiness. 
Mountain-chains are very effective in precipitating 
the vapour of our south-westerly winds ; and this 
sometimes to such an extent as to produce totally 
different climates on the two sides of the same 
mountain-group. This is very strikingly illustrated 
by the observations of Dr. Lloyd on the rainfall of 
Ireland. Stations situated on the south-west side 
of a mountain-range showed a quantity of rain far 
in excess of that observed upon the north-east side. 
The winds in passing over the mountains werti 
drained of their moisture, and were afterwards 
comparatively dry. 

408 CLOUDS. 

Two or three years ago I had an opportunity of 
witnessing a singular case of condensation at Mor- 
tain in Normandy. The tourist will perhaps re- 
member a little chapel perched upon the highest 
summit in the neighbourhood. A friend and I 
chanced to be at this point near the hour of sunset. 
The air was cloudless, and the sun flooded the hill- 
sides and valleys with golden light. We watched 
him as he gradually approached the crest of a hill, 
behind which he finally disappeared. Up to this 
point a sunny landscape of exquisite beauty was 
spread before us, the atmosphere being very trans- 
parent ; but now the air seemed suddenly to curdle 
into mist. Five minutes after the sun had de- 
parted, a dense fog filled the valleys and drifted in 
fleecy masses up the sides of the hills. In an in- 
credibly short time we found ourselves enveloped 
in local clouds so dense as to render our retreat a 
matter of some difficulty. 

In this case, before the sun had disappeared the 
air was evidently nearly saturated with transparent 
vapour. But why did the vapour curdle up so 
suddenly when the sun departed ? Was it because 
the withdrawal of his beams rendered the air oi 
the valleys colder, and thus caused the precipitation 
of the moisture diffused through the air? No. 
We must look for an explanation to a more direct 
action of the sun upon the atmospheric moisture 

CLOUDS. 409 

Let me explain. The beams which reach us from 
the sun are of a very composite character. A 
sheaf of white sunbeams is composed of an infinitude 
of coloured rays, the resultant effect of all upon 
the eye being the impression of whiteness. But 
though the colours, and shades of colour, which 
enter into the composition of a sunbeam are infinite, 
for the sake of convenience we divide them into seven, 
which are known as the prismatic colours. 

The beams of the sun, however, produce heat as 
v/ell as light, and there are different qualities of 
heat in the sunbeam as well as different qualities of 
light — nay, there are copious rays of heat in a 
sunbeam which give no light at all, some of which 
never even reach the retina at all, but are totally 
absorbed by the humours of the eye. Now, the same 
substance may permit rays of heat of a certain 
quality to pass freely through it, while it may 
effectually stop rays of heat of another quality. 
But in all cases the heat stopped is expended in 
heating the body which stops it. Now, water pos- 
sesses this selecting power in an eminent degree. 
It allows the blue rays of the solar beam to pass 
through it with facility, but it slightly intercepts 
the red rays, and absorbs with exceeding energy the 
obscure rays ; and those are the precise rays which 
possess the most intense heating power. 

We see here at once the powerful antagonism 


of the sun to the formation of visible fog, and we 
see, also, how the withdrawal of his beams may be 
followed by sudden condensation, even before the 
air has had any time to cool. As long as the solar 
beams swept through the valleys of Mortain, exery 
particle of water that came in their way was re- 
duced to transparent vapour by the heat which the 
particle itself absorbed ; or, to speak more strictly, 
in the presence of this antagonism precipitation 
could not at all occur, and the atmosphere remained 
consequently clear. 1 But the moment the sun with- 
drew, the vapour followed, without opposition, its 
own tendency to condense, and its sudden curdling 
up was the consequence. 

With regard to the air, its temperature may not 
only have remained sensibly unchanged for some 
time after the setting of the sun, but it may have 
actually become warmer through the. heat set free 
by the act of condensation. It was not, therefore, 
the action of cold air upon the vapour which pro- 
duced the effect, but it was the withdrawal of that 
solar energy which water has the power to absorb, 
and by absorbing to become dissipated in true 


1 once stood with a friend upon a mountain 

which commands a view of the glacier of the Ehone 

1 At this time I was brooding over experiments on the absorption 
of ?adiant heat by aqueous vapour. 



from its origin to its end. The day had been one 
of cloudless splendour, and there was something 
awful in the darkness of the firmament. This deep- 
ening of the blue is believed by those who know 
the mountains to be an indication of a humid atmo- 
sphere. The transparency, however, was wonderful. 
The summits of Mont Cervin and the Weisshorn 
stood out in clear definition, while the mighty mass 
of the Finsteraarhorn rose with perfect sharpness of 
outline close at hand. As long as the sun was high 
there was no trace of fog in the valleys, but as he 
sloped to the west the shadow of the Finsteraarhorn 
crept over the snow-fields at its base. A dim sea of 
fog began to form, which after a time rose to a con- 
siderable height," and then rolled down like a river 
along the flanks of the mountain. On entering the 
valley of the Rhone, it crossed a precipitous barrier, 
down which it poured like a cataract ; but long before 
it reached the bottom it escaped from the shadow 
in which it had been engendered, and was hit once 
more by the direct beams of the sun. Its utter 
dissipation was the consequence, and though the 
billows of fog rolled on incessantly from behind, 
the cloud-river made no progress, but disappeared, 
as if by magic, where the sunbeams played upon it. 
The conditions were analogous to those which hold 
in the case of a glacier. Here the ice-river is 
incessantly nourished by the mountain snow : it 



moves down its valley, but does not advance hi 
front. At a certain point the consumption by 
mel'ing is equal to the supply, and here the glacier 
ceases. In the case before us the cloud-river, 
nourished by the incessant condensation of the 
atmospheric vapour, moved down its valley, but 
ceased at the point where the dissipating action of 
the sunbeams equalled the supplv from the cloud - 
generator behind. 

i860] KILLARNKY. 413 



The total amount of heat which the sun send? 
annually to the earth is invariable, and hence if 
any portion of the earth's surface during any given 
year be colder than ordinary, we may infer with 
certainty that some other portion of the surface 
is then warmer than ordinary. The port of Odessa 
owes its importance to a case of atmospheric com- 
pensation of this kind. Forty or fifty years ago, 
Western Europe received less than its normal 
amount of heat ; the missing sunbeams fell upon 
the East, and Odessa became, to some extent, the 
granary from which the hungry West was fed. The 
position it then assumed it has since maintained. 
The atmosphere is the grand distributor of heat. 
It has its cold and warm currents — vast aerial 
rivers, which chill or cheer according to the proxi- 
mate sources from which they are derived. In this 
present year 1860 the British Isles appear to lie 
Dear the common boundary of two such currents 
- — the limit, however, shifting so as to cause both 

414 KILLARNET. [1800 

to pass over us in swift succession. Near this 
boundary line the atmospheric currents mingle, 
and the copious aqueous precipitation which we 
now observe is the result. 

Superadded to this source of general rain, we 
have at Killarney local condensers in the neigh- 
bouring mountains. Eound the cool crests of 
Carrantual and his peaked and craggy brothers the 
moist and tilted south-west wind curdles ceaselessly 
into clouds, which nourish the moss and heather 
whose decomposition produces the peat which 
clothes the disintegrated rocks. Grandly the vast 
cumuli build themselves in the atmosphere, hanging 
at times lazily over the mountains and mottling 
with their shadows the brown sides of the hills. 
Reddened by the evening sun, these clouds cast 
their hues upon the lakes, the crisped surface of 
which breaks up their images into broad spaces of 
diffused crimson light. On other days the cumuli 
seem whipped into dust, and scattered through the 
general air, mixing therewith as the smoke of 
London mingles with the supernatant atmosphere. 
Day by day the guides prophesy fine weather — the 
blackest cloud is ' all for hate.' You are assured 
that if you start to-day you will not get ' a single 
dhrop ' of rain • you go, and are drenched ; but the 
guide's purpose is accomplished, the moderate sum of 
three and sixpence being added to his private storj\ 

188C] KILLARNEY. 415 

Ju ages past these mountain condensers acted 
differently. The wet winds of the ocean, which now 
descend in liquid showers upon the hills, once 
discharged their contents as snow. And a famous 
deposit they must have made. In addition to the 
charms which this region presents to every eye, 
the mind of him who can read the rocks aright 
is carried back to a time when deep snowbeds 
cumbered the mountain-slopes, and vast glaciers 
filled the vales. In neither England nor Wales do 
the traces of glacial action reach the magnitude 
which they exhibit here. 

The Grap of Dunloe is the channel of an ancient 
glacier ; and all through it the scratching and 
polishing may be traced. The flanks of the Purple 
Mountain have been planed down by the moving- 
ice, and the rocky amphitheatre which the guides 
choose for the production of echoes has been scooped 
and polished by the same agency. Near the point 
where the road from the G-ap joins that up the Black 
Valley is a slab of rock, which rivals the famous 
Hollen Platte in Haslithal. The Black Valley, 
indeed, was the mould through which a great glacier 
from the adjacent mountains moved, ' unhasting, 
unresting,' grinding the rocks right and left, and 
filling the entire basin now occupied by the waters 
of the Upper Lake. All the islands of this lake 
are glacier domes The shapes, moreover, which 

416 KILLARNEY. [i860 

have suggested the fanciful names given to some 
of the rocks are entirely due to the planing of the 
ice. The ' Cannon Rock,' the 4 Giant's Coffin,' the 
6 Man-of-War,' and others, owe their forms to the 
mighty moulding-plane which in bygone ages passed 
over them. 

I have spoken of the echoes in the Gap of Dunloe. 
They are very fine, and are usually awakened by a 
guide who plays a bugle, and to whom extra wages 
are paid on this account. The man times his 
operations so that the echo and the original sound 
shall not overlap, and he usually places his guests 
behind a hill-brow, which partially cuts away the 
direct sound, but offers no impediment to the echoes. 
He flourishes his trumpet, and pauses ; the rocks 
respond, the first return of the sound being almost 
as strong as the blast itself; the sonorous pulses leap 
from crag to crag, and from them to the listener's 
ear, diminishing in intensity and augmenting in 
softness the oftener they are reflected. Moore's 
melody of ' The Meeting of the Waters,' suitably 
played, is thus returned with exquisite sweetness by 
the reflecting rocks. 

The rain here is pitiless, but the march of the 
showering clouds over the mountains is sometimes 
very grand. One really good day is all that I have 
been able to number out of six spent on the banks 
of the Lower Lake, and even that day was ushered 


in by heavy rain. Afterwards, however, the cloud 
neld broke, and the condensed vapours rolled them- 
selves up into sphered masses, which sailed majesti- 
cally through the ether. With some other visitors 
I rowed to the Upper Lake, landed at the base of 
the Purple Mountain, and with one companion 
climbed the latter to its crest. This is covered by 
loose masses of stone of a purplish hue, from which 
the mountain derives its name. 

A few days previously I had been on the top of 
Mangerton, a spot selected by the guides as afford- 
ing a prospect of the entire region of the Lakes. 
But Mangerton is a stupid mountain, and it is 
climbed by a wearisome pony track. It is incom- 
parably inferior to the Purple Mountain. From 
the latter, on one side, we look into the heart of 
Magillicuddy's Reeks, and shake hands with Car- 
rantual across the Grap of Dunloe. It commands a 
splendid mountain panorama, and on the occasion 
of my visit showed the Reeks in their true character, 
as cloud-generators. A light wind swept across 
them. Far to westward, towards the sea, the air 
was cloudless ; but over the Reeks its moisture was 
densely precipitated, and formed there a canopy 
which threw an inky gloom upon the mountains. 
The clouds sometimes descended so as to touch 
the summits, but for the most part they floated a 
little way above them, leaving the jagged outlines 

4 1 8 KILLARNEY. ~ 1 *6fl 

clear. From trie Reeks the clouds were wafted 
westward ; but here, meeting with warmer air, they 
diminished in size, the smaller ones melting quite 
away. Below us gleamed the Upper Lake, running 
in and out amid the mountains, fringed with woods 
and studded with islands covered with sunny foliage. 
From this lake a long, sinuous, and narrow outlet, 
called the Long Range, runs to the Middle Lake. 
The suddenness with which this lovely .sheet of 
water opens on quitting the Long Range constitutes 
perhaps the greatest surprise which the traveller 
here encounters. 

We walked along the ridge of the Purple Moun- 
tain ankle deep in elastic moss, with glorious views 
at either side. Arrived at the end of its greatest 
spur, the Middle and Lower Lakes with their 
islands, and the wooded and tortuous peninsula 
between them, lay before us. No view of the 
English lakes known to me could compete in loveli- 
ness with this one. We passed onward through the 
heather to the brow above the Bay of Grlena, and 
there clambered down the mountain, helping our- 
selves by the trees which grasped with gnarled roots 
the mossed and slippy crags. At Grlena we met 
our boat, and were rowed over the jerking waves to 
the island of Innisfallen, and thence to our hotel 
Various bits of climbing were accomplished during 
my stay, and almost in every case in opposition to 

I860] KILLARNEY. 419 

the guides. The Eagle Kock, for example, a truly 
noble mass, and others, were climbed, amid emphatic 
enunciations of ' impossible.' Yet these guides and 
boatmen are fine, hardy fellows, and of great 
endurance, but they appear averse to trying their 
strength under new conditions. 

I write on a drenching day, and a strong wind 
which wails dismally round the house has roused 
the Lower Lake to foam and fury. Innisfalleu 
looms feebly through the grey haze, but the opposite 
Toumies mountains are plunged in impenetrable 
gloom. All round the horizon is built a black 
cloud-wall, but the zenithal heaven is clear. Over 
the coping of this thunderous bulwark the sun 
shoots his rays, which, meeting the dropping cloud 
of the opposite heaven, paint upon it a complete 
and magnificent bow. Here the white beam enters 
the front of the falling drop, and is reflected at its 
back, emerging unravelled to its component huee. 
But the condition is, that after being thus un- 
ravelled, the coloured rays shall not diverge on 
quitting the drop. If they did, they would be lost 
immediately to the senses ; but they are squeezed 
together to parallel sheaves, and thus their intensity 
is preserved through long aerial distances. Above the 
vivid bow hangs its spectral secondary brother, in which 
a double reflection within each raindrop enfeebles 
the colours, and inverts the order of succession. 


Touched by the wand of law, the dross of facts 
becomes gold, the meanest being raised thereby to 
brotherhood with the highest. Thus the smoke of 
an Irish cabin lifts our speculations to the heavenly 
dome. We look through the cloudless air at the 
darkness of infinite space, and are met by the azure 
of the firmament — we look through a long reach 
of the same atmosphere at the bright sun or moon 
and see them orange or red. We look through the 
peat-smoke at a black rock, or at the dark branches 
of a yew, and see the smoke blue — we look through 
the same smoke at a cloud illuminated to whiteness 
by the sun and find the smoke red. The selfsame 
column of smoke may be projected against a bright 
and a dark portion of the same cloud, and thus 
made to appear blue and red at the same time. 
The blue belongs to the light reflected from the 
smoke ; the red to the light transmitted through 
it. In like manner, the hues of the atmosphere are 
not due to colouring matter, but to the fact of 
its being a turbid medium. Through this we look 
at the blackness of unillumined space and see the 
blue ; at the western heaven at sunset, and meet 
that light which steeps the clouds of evening in 
orange and crimson dyes. 



Tainted by the city air, and with gases not natural 
even to the atmosphere of London, I gladly chimed 
in with the proposal of an experienced friend to 
live four clear days at Christmas on Welsh mutton 
and mountain air. On the evening of the 26th of 
December 1 860 Mr. Busk, Mr. Huxley, and I found 
ourselves at the Penryhn Arms Hotel in Bangor. 
Next morning we started betimes. The wind had 
howled angrily during the night. It now swept over 
the frozen road, carrying the looser snow along with it, 
shooting the crystals with projectile force against 
our faces, and compelling us to lean forward at a 
considerable angle to keep upon our feet. Our 
destination was Capel Curig, with a prospective 
design upon Snowdon ; but we had no batons fit for 
the ascent. At Bethesda, however, after many vaiu 
enquiries in Welsh and English about walking-sticks, 
we found a shop which embraced among its multi- 
tudinous contents a sheaf of rake-handles. Two of 
these we purchased at fourpence each, and had them 



afterwards furnished with rings and iron spikes, at 
the total cost of one shilling. Thus provided, we 
hoped that ' old Snowdon's craggy chaos ' might be 
invaded with a hope of success. 

On the morning of the 28th we issued from our 
hotel. A pale blue, dashed with ochre, and blending 
to a most delicate green, overspread a portion of 
the eastern sky. Grey cumuli, tinged ruddily here 
and there as they caught the morning light, swung 
aloft, but melted more and more as the day advanced. 
The eastern mountains were all thickly covered with 
newly fallen snow. The effect was unspeakably 
lovely. In front of us was Snowdon ; over it and 
behind it the atmosphere was closely packed with 
dense brown haze, the lower filaments of which 
reached almost half-way down the mountain, but 
still left all its outline clearly visible through the 
attenuated fog. No ray of sunlight fell upon the 
hill, and the face which it turned towards us, too 
steep to hold the snow, exhibited a precipitous slope 
of rock, faintly tinted by the blue grey of its icy 
enamel. Below us was Llyn Mymbyr, a frozen 
plain; behind us the hills were flooded with sunlight, 
and here and there from the shaded slopes, which 
were illuminated chiefly by the light of the firma- 
ment, shimmered a most delicate blue. 

This beautiful effect deserves a word of notice ; 
many doubtless have observed it during the late snow 


Ten days ago, in driving from Kirtlington to Grlymp- 
ton, the window of my cab became partially opaque 
by the condensation of the vapour of respiration. 
With the finger-ends little apertures were made in 
the coating, and when viewed through these the 
snow-covered landscape flashed incessantly with 
blue gleams. They rose from the shadows of 
objects along the road, which shadows were illumi- 
nated by the light of the sky. The blue light is 
best seen when the eye is in motion, thus causing 
the images of the shadows to pass over different 
parts of the retina. The whole shadow of a tree 
may thus be seen with stem and branches of the 
most delicate blue. I have seen similar effects 
upon the fresh neves of the Alps, the shadow being 
that of the human body looked at through an 
aperture in a handkerchief thrown over the face. 
The same splendid effect was once exhibited in a 
manner never to be forgotten by those who witnessed 
it, on the sudden opening of a tent-door at sunrise 
on the summit of Mont Blanc. 

At Pen-y-Grwrid Busk halted, purposing to descend 
to Llanberis by the road, while Huxley and I went 
forward to the small public-house known as Pen 
Pass. Here our guide, Robert Hughes, a powerful 
but elderly man, refreshed himself, and we quitted 
the road and proceeded for a short distance along a 
car-track which seemed to wind round a spur of 


Suowdon. 'Is there no shorter way up?' we de- 
manded. c Yes ; but I fear it is now impracticable,' 
was the reply. c Gro straight on,' said Huxley, ' and 
do not fear us.' 

Up the man went with a spurt, suddenly putting 
on all his steam. The whisky of Pen Pass had 
given him a flash of energy, which we well knew 
could not last. In fact, the guide, though he 
acquitted himself admirably during the day, had 
at first no notion that we should reach the summit ; 
and this made him careless of preserving himself 
at the outset. Toning him down a little, we went 
forward at a calmer pace. Crossing the spur, we 
came upon a pony-track on the opposite side. It 
was rendered conspicuous by the unbroken layer of 
snow which rested on it. Huxlev took the lead, 
wading knee-deep for nearly an hour. 

I, wishing to escape this labour, climbed the 
slopes to the right, and sought a way over the 
less loaded bosses of the mountain. On our re- 
marking to Hughes that he had never assailed 
Snowdon under such conditions, he replied that he 
had, and under worse. The 12th of April last, he 
affirmed, was a worse day, and he had led a lady 
on that day almost to the summit. Unluckily for 
him, there was a smack of ' bounce ' in the reply. 
It caused us to conclude that the same energy which 
bad led the lady could lead us, and hence, when 


Huxley fell back, the guide was sent to the front, 
to break the way. He did this manfully for nearly 
an hour, at the end of which he seemed very jaded, 
and as he sat resting on a corner of rock I asked 
him whether he was tired. ' I am,' was his reply. 
Huxley gave him a sip of brandy, and I came for 
a short time to the front. 

I had no gaiters, and my boots were incessantly 
filled with snow. My own heat sufficed for a 
time to melt the snow ; but this clearly could not 
go on for ever. My left heel first became numbed 
and painful ; and this increased till both feet were 
in great distress. I sought relief by quitting the 
track and trying to get along the impending shingle 
to the right. The high ridges afforded me some 
relief, but they were separated by couloirs in which 
the snow had accumulated, and through which I 
sometimes floundered waist-deep. The pain at 
length became unbearable ; I sat down, took off 
my boots and emptied them ; put them on again , 
tied Huxley's pocket handkerchief round one ankle, 
and my own round the other, and went forward 
once more. It was a great improvement — the pain 
vanished, and did not return. 

The scene was grand in the extreme. Before us were 
the buttresses of Snowdon, crowned by his conical 
peak ; while below us were three llyns, black as ink, 
and contracting additional gloom from the {shadow of 


the mountain. The lines of weathering had caused 
the frozen rime to deposit itself upon the rocks, as 
on the tendrils of a vine, the crags being fantasti- 
cally wreathed with runners of ice. The summit, 
when we looked at it, damped our ardour a little ; 
it seemed very distant, and the day was sinking fast. 
From the summit the mountain sloped downward 
to a col which linked it with a bold eminence to 
our right. At the col we aimed, and half an hour 
before reaching it we passed the steepest portion of 
the track. This I quitted, seeking to cut off the zig- 
zags, but gained nothing but trouble by the attempt. 
This difficulty conquered, the col was clearly within 
reach ; on its curve we met a fine snow cornice, 
through which we broke at a plunge, and gained 
safe footing on the mountain-rim. The health and 
gladness of that moment were a full recompense 
for the entire journey into Wales. 

We went upward along the edge of the cone 
with the noble sweep of the snow cornice at our 
left. The huts at the top were all cased in ice, 
and from their chimneys and projections the snow 
was drawn into a kind of plumage by the wind 
The crystals had set themselves so as to present the 
exact appearance of feathers, and in some cases 
these were stuck against a common axis, so as ac- 
curately to resemble the plumes in soldiers' caps. 


It was 3 o'clock when we gained the summit. Above 
and behind us the heavens were of the densest grey ; 
towards the western horizon this was broken by belts 
of fiery red, which nearer the sun brightened to 
orange and yellow. The mountains of Flintshire 
were flooded with glory, and later on, through the 
gaps in the ranges, the sunlight was poured in 
coloured beams, which could be tracked through the 
air to the places on which their radiance fell. The 
scene would bear comparison with the splendours 
of the Alps themselves. 

Next day we ascended the pass of Llanberis. The 
waterfalls, stiffened into pillars of blue ice, gave it a 
grandeur which it might not otherwise exhibit. 
The wind, moreover, was violent, and shook clouds 
of snow-dust from the mountain-heads. We de- 
scended from Pen-y-Grwrid to Beddgelert. What 
splendid skating surfaces the lakes presented — so 
smooth as scarcely to distort the images of the hills ! 
A snow-storm caught us before we reached our hotel. 
This melted to rain during the night. Next day we 
engaged a carriage for Carnarvon, but had not pro- 
ceeded more than two miles when we were stopped 
by the snow. Huge barriers of it were drifted across 
the road ; and not until the impossibility of the 
tiling was clearly demonstrated did we allow the 
postilion to back out of his engagement. Luckily 


our luggage was portable. Strapping our bags and 
knapsacks on our shoulders, partly through the 
fields, and partly along the less encumbered por- 
tions of the road, we reached Carnarvon on foot, and 
the evening of the 31st of December saw us safe 
in Loudon. 





The opening of the Eclipse Expedition was not pro- 
pitious. Portsmouth, on the 5th of December 1870, 
was swathed by a fog, which was intensified by smoke, 
and traversed by a drizzle of fine rain. At six p.m. I 
was on board the ' Urgent.' On Tuesday morning the 
weather was too thick to permit of the ship's being 
swung and her compasses calibrated. The Admiral 
of the port, a man of very noble presence, came on 
board. Under his stimulus the energy which the 
weather had damped appeared to become more ac- 
tive, and soon after his departure we steamed down 
to Spithead. Here the fog had so far lightened as 
to enable the officers to swing the ship. 

At three p.m. on Tuesday the 6th of December 
we got away, gliding successively past Whitecliff 
Bay, Bembridge, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor, and 
St. Catherine's Lighthouse. On Wednesday morning 
we sighted the Isle of Ushant, on the French side of 
the Channel. The northern end of the island has 
been fretted by the waves into detached tower-like 


masses of rock of very remarkable appearance. In 
the Channel the sea was green, and opposite Ushant 
it was a brighter green. On Wednesday evening we 
committed ourselves to the Bay of Biscay. The roll 
of the Atlantic was full, but not violent. There had 
been scarcely a gleam of sunshine throughout the 
day, but the cloud-forms were fine, and their apparent 
solidity impressive. On Thursday morning I rose 
refreshed, and found the green of the sea displaced 
by a deep indigo blue. The whole of Thursday we 
steamed across the bay. We had little blue sky, but 
the clouds were again grand and varied — cirrus, 
stratus, cumulus, and nimbus, we had them all. 
Dusky hairlike trails were sometimes dropped from 
the distant clouds to the sea. These were falling 
showers, and they sometimes occupied the whole 
horizon, while we steamed across the rainless circle 
which was thus surrounded. Sometimes we plunged 
into the rain, and once or twice, by slightly changing 
course, avoided a heavy shower. From time to time 
perfect rainbows spanned the heavens from side to side. 
At times a bow would appear in fragments, showing 
the keystone of the arch midway in air, and its two 
buttresses on the horizon. In all cases the light of the 
bow could be quenched by a NicoFs prism, with its 
long diagonal tangent to the arc. Sometimes gleam- 
ing patches of the firmament were seen amid the 
clouds. When viewed in the proper direction, the 


gleam could be quenched by a Nicol prism, a dark 
aperture being thus opened into stellar space. 

At sunset on Thursday the denser clouds were 
fiercely fringed, while through the lighter ones 
seemed to issue the glow of a conflagration. On 
Friday morning we sighted Cape Finisterre, the 
extreme end of the arc which sweeps from Ushant 
round the Bay of Biscay. Calm spaces of blue, in 
which floated quietly scraps of cumuli, were behind 
us, but in front of us was a horizon of portentous 
darkness. It continued thus threatening throughout 
the day. Towards evening the wind strengthened to 
a gale, and at dinner it was difficult to preserve the 
plates and dishes from destruction. Our thinned 
company hinted that the rolling had other conse- 
quences. It was very wild when we went to bed. 
I slumbered and slept, but after some time was 
rendered actively conscious that my body had become 
a kind of projectile, which had the ship's side for a 
target. I gripped the edge of my berth to save my- 
self from being thrown out. Outside, I could hear 
somebody say that he had been thrown from his 
berth, and sent spinning to the other side of the 
saloon. The screw laboured violently amid the 
lurching ; it incessantly quitted the water, and, 
twirling in the air, rattled against its bearings, and 
caused the ship to shudder from stem to stern. At 
times the waves struck us, not with the soft impact 

•*32 YOTAGE TO ALGERIA. [1379 

which might be expected from a liquid, but with the 
sudden solid shock of battering-rams. 'No man 
knows the force of water,' said one of the officers, 
* until he has experienced a storm at sea.' These 
blows followed each other at quicker intervals, the 
screw rattling after each of them, until, finally, the 
delivery of a header stroke than ordinary seemed 
to reduce the saloon to chaos. Furniture crashed, 
glasses rang, and alarmed enquiries immediately fol- 
lowed. Amid the noises I heard one note of forced 
laughter ; it sounded very ghastly. Men tramped 
through the saloon, and busy voices were heard aft, 
as if something there had gone wrong. 

I rose, and not without difficulty got into my 
clothes. In the after-cabin, under the superinten- 
dence of the able and energetic navigating lieutenant, 
Mr. Brown, a group of blue-jackets were working at 
the tiller-ropes. These had become loose, and the 
helm refused to answer the wheel. High moral 
lessons might be gained on shipboard by observing 
what steadfast adherence to an object can accomplish, 
and what large effects are heaped up by the addition 
of infinitesimals. The tiller-rope, as the blue-jackets 
strained in concert, seemed hardly to move ; still it 
did move a little, until finally, by timing the pull to 
the lurching of the ship, the mastery of the rudder 
was obtained. I had previously gone on deck. 
Rouod the saloon-dcor were a few members of the 


eclipse party, who seemed in no mood for scientific 
observation. Nor did I ; but I wished to see the 
storm. I climbed the steps to the poop, exchanged 
a word with Captain Toynbee, the only member of 
the party to be seen on the poop, and by his direction 
made towards a cleat not far from the wheel, 1 
Round it I coiled my arms. With the exception of 
the men at the wheel, who stood as silent as corpses, 
I was alone. 

I had seen grandeur elsewhere, but this was a new 
form of grandeur to me. The ' Urgent ' is long and 
narrow, and during our expedition she lacked the 
steadying influence of sufficient ballast. She was for 
a time practically rudderless, and lay in the trough 
of the sea. I could see the long ridges, with some 
hundreds of feet between their crests, rolling upon 
the ship perfectly parallel to her sides. As they 
approached they so grew upon the eye as to render 
the expression ' mountains high ' intelligible. At 
all events, there was no mistaking their mechanical 
might, as they took the ship upon their shoulders, 
and swung her like a pendulum. The poop sloped 
sometimes at an angle which I estimated at over 
furty-five degrees ; wanting my previous Alpine 
practice, I should have felt less confidence in my 
grip of the cleat. Here and there the long rollers 

1 The cleat is a T-shapod mass of metal employed for th* 
fastening of ropes. 

i34 TOY AG:: TO ALGERIA. [1870 

were tossed by interference into heaps of greater 
height. The wind caught their crests, and scattered 
them over the sea, the whole surface of which was 
seething white. The aspect of the clouds was a fit 
accompaniment to the fury of the ocean. The moon 
was almost full — at times concealed, at times 
revealed, as the scud flew wildly over it. These 
things appealed to the eye, while the ear was filled 
by the whistle and boom of the storm and the 
groaning of the screw. 

Nor was the outward agitation the only object of 
interest to me. I was at once subject -and object 
to myself, and watched with intense interest the 
workings of my own mind. The ' Urgent ' is an 
elderly ship. She had been built, I was told, by a 
contracting firm for some foreign Government, and 
had been diverted from her first purpose when con- 
verted into a troop-ship. She had been for some 
time out of work, and I had heard that one of her 
boilers, at least, needed repair. Our scanty but 
excellent crew, moreover, did not belong to the 
6 Urgent,' but had been gathered from other ships. 
Our three lieutenants were also volunteers. All this 
passed swiftly through my mind as the ship shook 
under the blows of the waves, and I thought that 
probably no one on board could say how much of this 
thumping and straining the ' Urgent ' would be able 
to bear. This uncertainty caused me to look 


steadily at the worst, and I tried to strengthen 
myself in the face of it. 

But at length the helm laid hold of the water, 
and the ship was got gradually round to face the 
waves. The rolling diminished, a certain amount 
of pitching taking its place. Our speed had fallen 
from eleven knots to two. I went again to bed. 
After a space of calm, when we seemed crossing the 
vortex of a storm, heavy tossing recommenced. I 
was afraid to allow myself to fall asleep, as my berth 
was high, and to be pitched out of it might be 
attended with bruises, if not with fractures. From 
Friday at noon to Saturday at noon we accom- 
plished sixty-six miles, or an average of less than 
three miles an hour. I overheard the sailors talking 
about this storm. The ' Urgent,' according to those 
that knew her, had never previously experienced 
anything like it. 1 

All through Saturday the wind, though somewhat 
sobered, blew dead against us. The atmospheric 
effects were exceedingly fine. The cumuli resembled 
mountains in shape, and their peaked summits shone 
as white as Alpine snows. At one place this resem- 
blance was greatly strengthened by a vast area of 
cloud, uniformly illuminated, and lying like a neve 

1 There is, it will be seen, a fair agreement between these 
impressions and those so vigorously described by a scientific 
correspondent of the ' Times.' 


below the peaks. From it fell a kind of cloud-river, 
strikingly like a glacier. The horizon at sunset 
was iemarkable — spaces of brilliant green between 
clouds of fiery red. Eainbows had been frequent 
throughout the day, and at night a perfectly conti- 
nuous lunar bow spanned the heavens from side 
to side. Its colours were feeble ; but, contrasted 
with the black ground against which it rested, its 
luminousness was extraordinary. 

Sunday morning found us opposite to Lisbon, and 
at midnight we rounded Cape St. Vincent, where 
the lurching seemed disposed to recommence. 
Through the kindness of Lieutenant Walton, a cot 
had been slung for me. It hung between a tiller- 
wheel and a flue, and at one a.m. I was roused by 
the banging of the cot against its boundaries. 
But the wind was now behind us, and we went along 
at a speed of eleven knots. We felt certain of reach- 
ing Cadiz by three. But a new lighthouse came 
in sight, which some affirmed to be Cadiz lighthouse, 
while the surrounding houses were declared to be 
Cadiz itself. Out of deference to these statements, 
the navigating lieutenant changed his course, and 
steered for the place. A pilot came on board, and he 
informed us that we were before the mouth of the 
Guadalquivir, and that the lighthouse was that of 
Cipiona. Cadiz was still some eighteen miles distant. 

We steered towards the city, hoping to get intc 


the harbour before dark. But the pilot was snapped 
up by another vessel, and we did not get in. We 
beat about during the night, and in the morning 
found ourselves about fifteen miles from Cadiz. The 
sun rose behind the city, and we steered straight into 
the light. The three-towered cathedral stood in the 
midst, round which swarmed apparently a multitude 
of chimney-stacks. A nearer approach showed the 
chimneys to be small turrets. A pilot was taken on 
board ; for there is a dangerous shoal in the harbour. 
The appearance of the town as the sun shone upon its 
white and lofty walls was singularly beautiful. We 
cast anchor ; some officials arrived and demanded a 
clean bill of health. We had none. They would 
have nothing to do with us ; so the yellow quaran- 
tine flag was hoisted, and we waited for per- 
mission to land the Cadiz party. After some hours 
of delay the English consul and vice-consul came on 
board, and with them a Spanish officer, ablaze with 
gold lace and decorations. Under slight pressure 
the requisite permission had been granted. We 
landed our party, and in the afternoon weighed 
anchor. Thanks to the kindness of our excellent pay- 
master, I was here transferred to a roomier berth. 

Cadiz soon sank beneath the sea, and we sighted 
in succession Cape Trafalgar, Tarifa, and the re- 
volving light of Ceuta. The water was very calm, 
and the moon rose in a quiet heaven. She swung 


with her convex surface downwards, the common 
boundary between light and shadow being almost 
horizontal. A pillar of reflected light shimmered 
up to us from the slightly rippled sea. I had already 
noticed the phosphorescence of the water, but to- 
night it was stronger than usual, especially among 
the foam at the bows. A bucket let down into the 
sea brought up a number of the little sparkling 
organisms which cause the phosphorescence. I 
caught some of them in my hand. And here an 
appearance was observed which was new to most of 
us, and strikingly beautiful to all. Standing at the 
bow and looking forwards, at a distance of forty or 
fifty yards from the ship a number of luminous 
streamers were seen rushing towards us. On nearing 
the vessel they rapidly turned, like a comet round 
its perihelion, placed themselves side by side, and, 
as parallel trails of light, kept up with the ship. One 
of them placed itself right in front of the bow as a 
pioneer. These comets of the sea were joined at 
intervals by others. Sometimes as many as six at a 
time would rush at us, bend with extraordinary 
rapidity round a sharp curve, and afterwards keep us 
company. Leaning over the bow, and scanning the 
streamers closely, the frontal portion of each revealed 
the outline of a porpoise. The rush of the creatures 
through the water had started the phosphorescence, 
every spark of which was converted by the motion 


of the retina into a line of light. Each porpoise 
was thus wrapped in a luminous sheath. The phos- 
phorescence did not cease at the creature's tail, but 
was carried many porpoise-lengths behind it. 

To our right we had the African hills, illuminated 
by the moon. Gibraltar Rock at length became 
visible, but the town remained long hidden by a belt 
of haze. Through this at length the brighter lamps 
struggled. It was like the gradual resolution of a 
nebula into stars. As the intervening depth be- 
came gradually less the mist vanished more and 
more, and finally all the lamps shone through it. 
They formed a bright foil to the sombre mass of rock 
above them. The sea was so calm and the scene so 
lovely that Mr. Huggins and myself stayed on deck 
till the ship was moored, near midnight. During 
our walking to and fro a striking enlargement of 
the disc of Jupiter was observed whenever the heated 
air of the funnels came between us and the planet. 
On passing away from the heated air, the flat dim 
disc would immediately shrink to a luminous point. 
The effect was one of retinal persistence. The retinal 
image of the planet was set quivering in all azimuths 
by the streams of heated air, describing in quick 
succession minute lines of light, which summed 
themselves to a disc of sensible area. 

At six o'clock next morning the gun at the signal 
station on the summit of the rock boomed. At eight 


the band on board the ' Trafalgar ' training-ship. 
which was in the harbour, struck up the national 
anthem ; and immediately afterwards a crowd of 
mite-like cadets swarmed up the rigging After the 
removal of the apparatus belonging to the Gibral- 
tar party we went on shore. Winter was in Eng- 
land when we left, but here we had the warmth 
of summer. The vegetation was luxuriant — palm- 
trees, cactuses, and aloes, all ablaze with scarlet 
flowers. A visit to the Governor was proposed, as 
an act of necessary courtesy, and I accompanied Ad- 
miral Ommaney and Mr. Huggins to the Convent, or 
Government House. We sent in our cards, waited 
for a time, and were then conducted by an orderly 
to his Excellency. He is a fine old man, over six 
foot high, and of frank military bearing. He re- 
ceived us and conversed with us in a very genial 
manner. He took us to see his garden, his palms, 
his shaded promenades, and his orange-trees loaded 
with fruit, in all of which he took manifest de- 
light. Evidently 'the hero of Kars' had fallen 
upon quarters after his own heart. He appeared full 
of good nature, and engaged us on the spot to dino 
with him that day. 

We sought the town -major for a pass to visit the 
lines. While awaiting his arrival I purchased a 
stock of white glass bottles, with a view to experi- 
ments on the colour of the sea. Mr. Hiuruins and 



myself, who wished to see the rock, wera taken by 
Captain Salmon d to the library, where a model of 
Gibraltar is kept, and where we had a capital pre- 
liminary lesson. At the library we met Colonel 
Maberly, a courteous and kindly man, who gave us 
good advice regarding our excursion. He sent an 
orderly with us to the entrance of the lines. The 
orderly handed us over to an intelligent Irishman, 
who was directed to show us everything that we 
desired to see, and to hide nothing from us. We 
took the ' upper lines,' traversed the galleries hewn 
through the limestone, looked through the em- 
brasures, which opened like doors in the precipice, 
over the hills of Spain, reached St. George's Hall, and 
went still higher, emerging on the summit of one 
of the noblest cliffs I have ever seen. 

Beyond were the Spanish lines, marked by a line 
of white sentry-boxes ; nearer were the English lines, 
less conspicuously marked out ; and between both 
was the neutral ground. Behind the Spanish lines 
was the conical hill called the Queen of Spain's 
Chair. The general aspect of Spain from the rock 
is bold and rugged. Doubling back from the gal- 
leries, we struck upwards towards the crest, reached 
the signal station, where we indulged in shandy-gaff 
and bread and cheese. Thence to O'Hara's Tower, 
the highest point of the rock. It was built by a 
former Governor, who, forgetful of the laws of 


terrestrial curvature, thought he might look from the 
tower into the port of Cadiz. The tower is riven, 
and may be climbed along the edges of the crack. 
We got to the top of it ; thence descended the 
curious Mediterranean Stair — a zigzag, mostly of 
steps down a steeply falling slope, amid palmetto 
brush, aloes, and prickly pear. 

Passing over the Windmill Hill, we were joined 
at the ' Governors Cottage ' by a car, and drove after- 
wards to the lighthouse at Europa Point. The tower 
was built, I believe, by Queen Adelaide, and it con- 
tains a fine dioptric apparatus of the first order, 
constructed by the Messrs. Chance of Birmingham. 
At the appointed hour we were at the Convent. 
During dinner the same genial traits which appeared 
in the morning were still more conspicuous. The 
freshness of the Governor's nature showed itself 
best when he spoke of his old antagonist in arms, 
Mouravieff. Chivalry in war is consistent with its 
stern prosecution. These two men were chivalrous, 
and after striking the last blow became friends for 
ever. Our kind and courteous reception at Gibral- 
tar is a thing to be remembered with pleasure. 

On the 15th of December we committed our 
selves to the Mediterranean. The views of Gibraltar 
with which we are most acquainted represent it as a 
huge ridge ; but its aspect, end on, both from the 
Spanish lines and from the other side, is trulv 


noble. There is a sloping bank of sand at the back 
of the rock, which I was disposed to regard simply 
as the debris of the limestone. I wished to let 
myself down upon it, but had not the time. My 
friend Mr. Busk, however, assures me that it is 
silica, and that the same sand constitutes the 
adjacent neutral ground. There are theories afloat 
as to its having been blown from Sahara. The 
Mediterranean throughout this first day, and indeed 
throughout the entire voyage to Oran, was of less 
deep a blue than the Atlantic. Possibly the quan- 
tity of organisms may have modified the colour. 
At night the phosphorescence was delicious, break- 
ing with the suddenness of a snapped spring along 
the crests of the waves formed by the port and 
starboard bows. Its strength was not uniform. 
Having flashed brilliantly for a time, it would in 
part subside, and afterwards regain its vigour. 
Several large phosphorescent masses of wierd ap- 
pearance also floated past. 

On the morning of the 16th we sighted the fort 
and lighthouse of Marsa el Kibir, and beyond them 
the white walls of Oran lying in the bight of a bay, 
sheltered by dominant hills. The sun was shining 
brightly-, during our whole voyage we had not had so 
fine a day. The wisdom which had led us to choose 
Oran as our place of observation seemed demonstra- 
ted. A rather excitable pilot came on board, and 


he guided us in behind the Mole, which had suf- 
fered much damage last year from an unexplained 
outburst of waves from the Mediterranean. Both 
port and bow anchors were cast into deep water. 
With three huge i awsers the ship's stern was made 
fast to three gun-pillars fixed in the Mole ; and here 
for a time the ' Urgent ' rested from her labours. 

M. Janssen, who had rendered his name celebrated 
by his observations of the eclipse in India in 1868, 
when he showed the solar flames to be eruptions of 
incandescent hydrogen, was already encamped in 
the open country about eight miles from Oran. On 
the 2nd of December he had quitted Paris in a 
balloon, with a strong young sailor as his assistant, 
had descended near the mouth of the Loire, seen M. 
Grambetta, and received from him encouragement and 
aid. On the day of our arrival his encampment was 
visited by Mr. Huggins, and the kind and courteous 
Engineer of the Port drove me subsequently in his 
own phaeton to the place. It bore the best repute as 
regards freedom from haze and fog, and commanded 
an open outlook, but it was inconvenient for us on 
account of its distance from the ship. The place 
next in repute was the railway station, between 
two and three miles distant from the Mole. It was 
inspected, but, being enclosed, was abandoned for an 
eminence in an adjacent garden, the property of Mr. 
Hinshelwood,a Scotchman who had settled some years 


previously as an esparto merchant in Oran, 1 and 
who in the most liberal manner placed his ground 
at the disposition of the party. Here the tents were 
pitched on the Saturday by Captain Salmond and his 
intelligent corps of sappers, the instruments being 
erected on the Monday under cover of the tents. 

Close to the railway station runs a new loopholed 
wall of defence, through which the highway passes 
into the open country. Standing on the highway, 
snd looking southwards, about twenty yards to the 
right is a small bastionet, intended to carry a gun or 
two. Its roof I thought would form an admirable 
basis for my telescope, while the view of the sur- 
rounding country was unimpeded in all directions. 
The authorities kindly allowed me the use of this 
hastionet. Two men, one a blue-jacket named 
Elliot, and the other a marine named Hill, were 
placed at my disposal by Lieutenant Walton ; and 
thus aided, on Monday morning I mounted my 
telescope. The instrument was new to me, and I 
wished to master all the details of its manipulation. 

After some hours of discipline, and as the day 
was sobering towards twilight, the telescope was 
dismounted and put under cover. Mr. Huggins 
joined me, and we visited together the Arab quarter 
of Oran. The flat- roofed houses appeared very 

1 Esparto is a kind of grass now much used in the manufacture cf 


clean and white. The street was filled with 
loiterers, and the thresholds were occupied by 
picturesque groups. Some of the men are very 
fine ; we saw m^ny straight, manly fellows who 
must have been six foot four in height. They passed 
us with perfect indifference, evincing no anger, 
suspicion, or curiosity, hardly caring in fact to glance 
at us as we passed. In one instance only during my 
stay at Oran was I spoken to by an Arab. He was a 
tall, good-humoured fellow, who came smiling up 
to me, and muttered something about ' les Anglais.' 
The mixed population of Oran is picturesque in 
the highest degree : the Jews, rich and poor, vary- 
ing in their costumes as their wealth varies — the 
Arabs more picturesque still, and of all shades of 
complexion — the negroes, the Spaniards, the French, 
all grouped together, and each preserving their 
own individuality, formed a picture intensely inter- 
esting me. 

On Tuesday, the 20th, I was early at the bastionet, 
with the view of schooling both myself and my men. 
The night had been very squally. The sergeant of 
the sappers took charge of our key, and on Tuesday 
mornino- Elliot went for it. He brought back the 
intelligence that the tents had been blown down, 
and the instruments overturned. Among these was 
a large and valuable equatorial from the Royal 
Observatory, Greenwich. It seemed hardly possible 


that this instrument, with its wheels and verniers 
and delicate adjustments, could have escaped unin- 
jured from such a fall. This, however, was the case ; 
and during the day all the overturned instruments 
were restored to their places, and found to he in 
practical working order. This and the following 
day were devoted to incessant schooling. I had 
come out as a general star-gazer, and not with the 
intention of devoting myself to the observation of 
any particular phenomenon. I wished to see the 
whole — the first contact, the advance of the moon, 
and the successive swallowing up of the solar spots, 
the breaking of the last line of crescent by the lunar 
mountains into Bailey's beads, the advance of the 
shadow through the air, the appearance of the corona 
and prominences at the moment of totality, the 
radiant streamers of the corona, the internal struc- 
ture of the flames, a glance through a polariscope, a 
sweep round the landscape with the naked eye, the 
reappearance of the solar limb through Bailey's 
beads, and, finally, the retreat of the lunar shadow 
through the air. 

For these observations I was provided with a 
telescope of admirable definition, mounted, adjusted, 
packed, and most liberally placed at my disposal by 
Mr. Warren De la Eue. The telescope grasped the 
whole of the sun, and a considerable portion of the 
epace surrounding it. But it would not take id 


the probable extreme limits of the corona. For 
this the 'finder ' was suitable ; but, instead of it, I had 
lashed on to the large telescope a light but powerful 
instrument, constructed by Eoss, and lent to me 
by Mr. Huggins. I was also furnished with an 
excellent binocular by Mr. Dallmeyer. In fact, no 
man could have been more efficiently supported 
than I was. It required a strict parcelling out of 
the two minutes and some seconds of totality to 
embrace in them the entire series of observations. 
These, while the sun remained visible, were to be 
made with an unsilvered diagonal eyepiece, which 
reflected but a small fraction of the sun's light, this 
fraction being still further toned down by a dark 
glass. At the moment of totality the dark glass 
was to be removed, and a silver reflector pushed in, 
so as to get the maximum of light from the corona 
and prominences. The time of totality was distri- 
buted as follows : 

1. Observe approach of shadow through the air: totality. 

2. Telescopa . 

3. Finder 

4. Double image prism 

5. Naked eye . 

6. Finder or binocular 

7. Telescope . 

8. Observe retreat of shadow. 

30 seconds. 
30 seconds. 
15 seconds. 
10 seconds. 
20 seconds. 
20 seconds. 

It was proposed to begin and end with the tele- 
scope, so that any change in the field of view 


occurring* during the totality might be noticed. 
Elliot stood beside me, watch in hand, and fur- 
nished with a lantern. He called out at the end of 
each interval, and I moved from telescope to finder, 
from finder to polariscope, from polariscope to naked 
eye, from naked eye back to finder, from finder to 
telescope, abandoning the instrument finally to 
observe the retreating shadow. All this we went 
over twenty times, while looking at the actual sun, 
and keeping him in the middle of the field. It was 
my object to render the repetition of the lesson so 
mechanical as to leave no room for flurry, forgetful- 
ness, or excitement. Volition was not to be called 
upon, nor judgment exercised, but a well-beaten 
path of routine was to be followed. Had the oppor- 
tunity occurred, I think the programme would have 
been strictly carried out. 

But the opportunity did not occur. For several 
days the weather had been ill-natured. We had 
wind so strong as to render the hawsers at the stern 
of the ' Urgent ' as rigid as iron, and, therefore, to 
destroy the navigating lieutenant's sleep. We had 
clouds, a thunder-storm, and some rain. Still the 
hope was held out that the atmosphere would 
cleanse itself, and if it did we were promised an air 
of extraordinary limpidity. Early on the 22nd we 
were all at our posts. Spaces of blue in the early 
morning gave us some encouragement, but all 


depended on the relation of these spaces to the 
surrounding clouds. Which of them were to grow 
as the day advanced ? The wind was high, and to 
secure the steadiness of my instrument I was forced 
to retreat behind a projection of the bastionet, place 
stones upon its stand, and, further, to avail myself of 
the shelter of a sail. My practised men fastened 
the sail at the top, and loaded it with boulders at the 
bottom. It was tried severely, but it stood firm. 

The clouds and blue spaces fought for a time 
with varying success. The sun was hidden and 
revealed at intervals, hope oscillating in synchronism 
with the changes of the sky. At the moment of 
first contact a dense cloud intervened, but a minute 
or two afterwards the cloud had passed, and the 
enchroachment of the black body of the moon was 
evident upon the solar disc. The moon marched 
onward, and I saw it at frequent intervals ; a large 
group of spots were approached and swallowed up. 
Subsequently I caught sight of the lunar limb as it 
cut through the middle of a large spot. The spot 
was not to be distinguished from the moon, but rose 
like a mountain above it. The clouds, when thin, 
could be seen as grey scud drifting across the black 
surface of the moon ; but they thickened more and 
more, and made the intervals of clearness scantier. 
During these moments I watched with an interest 
bordering upon fascination the march of the silvci 


sickle of the sun across the field of the telescope. 
It was so sharp and so beautiful. No trace of the 
lunar limb could be observed beyond the sun's 
boundary. Here, indeed, it could only be relieved 
by the corona, which was utterly cut off by the dark 
glass. The blackness of the moon beyond the sun 
was, in fact, confounded with the blackness of 

Beside me was Elliot with the watch and 
lantern, while Lieutenant Archer, of the Royal 
Engineers, had the kindness to take charge of my 
note-book. I mentioned, and he wrote rapidly 
down, such things as seemed worthy of remembiance. 
Thus my hands and mind were entirely free ; but it 
was all to no purpose. A patch of sunlight fell and 
rested upon the landscape some miles away. It 
was the only illuminated spot within view. But to 
the north-west there was still a space of blue which 
might reach us in time. Within seven minutes of 
totality another small space towards the zenith 
became very dark. The atmosphere was, as it were, 
on the brink of a precipice ; it was charged with 
humidity, which required but a slight chill to bring 
it down in clouds. This was furnished bv the with- 
drawal of the solar beams ; the clouds did come 
down, covering up the space of blue on which our 
hopes had so long rested. I abandoned the tele- 
scope and walked to and fro, like a leopard in itc 


cage. As the moment of totality approached, the 
descent towards darkness was as obvious as a falling 
stone. I looked towards a distant ridge, where I 
knew the darkness would first appear. At the moment 
a fan of beams, issuing from the hidden sun, was 
spread out over the southern heavens. These 
beams are bars of alternate light and shade, pro- 
duced in illuminated haze by the shadows of 
floating cloudlets of varying density. The beams 
are really parallel, but by an effect of perspective 
they appear divergent, like a fan, having the sun, 
in fact, for their point of intersection. The dark 
ness took possession of the ridge to which I have 
referred, lowered upon M. Janssen's observatory, 
passed over the southern heavens, blotting out the 
beams as if a sponge had been drawn across them. 
It then took successive possession of three spaces of 
blue sky in the south-eastern atmosphere. I again 
looked towards the ridge. A glimmer as of day- 
dawn was behind it, and immediately afterwards 
the fan of beams which had been for more than two 
minutes absent revived. The eclipse of 1870 had 
ended, and, as far as the corona was concerned, 
we had been defeated. 

Even in the heart of the eclipse the darkness was 
by no means perfect. Small print could be read, 
lu fact, the clouds which rendered the day a dark 
one, by scattering light into the shadow, rendered 




it less intense than it would have been had the 
atmosphere been without cloud. In the more open 
spaces I sought for stars, but could find none. 
There was a lull in the wind before and after 
totality, but during the totality the wind was 
strong. I waited for some time on the bastionet, 
h oping to get a glimpse of the moon on the opposite 
border of the sun, but in vain. The clouds con- 
tinued, and some rain fell. The day brightened 
somewhat afterwards, and, having packed all up, in 
the sober twilight Mr. Crookes and myself climbed 
the heights above the fort of Vera Cruz. From this 
eminence we had a very noble view over the 
Mediterranean and the flanking African hills. The 
sunset was remarkable, and the whole outlook 
exceedingly fine. 

The able and well-instructed medical officer of 
the ' Urgent,' Mr. Goodman, observed the following 
temperatures during the progress of the eclipse : 





11.45 . 

. 56 

12.43 . 

. 51 

11.55 . 

. 55 

1.5 . 

. 52 

12.10 . 

. 54 

1.27 . 

. 53 

12.37 . 

. 53 

1 .44 . 

. 56 

12.39 . 

. 52 

2.10 . 

. 57 

The minimum temperature occurred some minutea 
after totality, when a slight rain fell. 

The wind was so strong on the 23rd thai Captain 
Henderson would not venture out. Guided by Mr. 



Goodman, I visited a cave scooped into a remarkable 
stratum of shell-breccia, and, thanks to my guide, 
secured specimens. Mr. Busk informs me that a 
precisely similar breccia is found at Gibraltar at 
approximately the same level. During the after- 
noon Admiral Ommaney and myself drove to the 
fort of Marsa el Kibir. The fortification is of 
ancient origin, the Moorish arches being still there 
in decay, but the fort is now very strong. About 
four or five hundred dragoons, fine-looking men, 
were looking after their horses, waiting for a lull to 
enable them to embark for France. One of their 
officers was wandering in a very solitary fashion over 
the fort. We had some conversation with him. He 
had been at Sedan, had been taken prisoner, but 
had effected his escape. He shook his head when 
we spoke of the termination of the war, and pre- 
dicted its long continuance. There was bitterness 
in his tone as he spoke of the charges of treason 
which had been so lightly levelled against French 
commanders. The green waves raved round the 
promontory on which the fort stands, smiting the 
rocks, breaking into snow, and jumping, after 
impact, to a height of a hundred feet and more into 
the air. On our return our vehicle broke down 
through the loss of a wheel. The Admiral went on 
board, while I hung long over the agitated sea. 
The little horses of Oran well merit a passing 

•870] 70YAGE TO ALGERIA. 455 

word. Their speed and endurance, which are both 
heavily drawn upon by their drivers, are extra- 

The wind sinking, we lifted anchor on the 24th. 
For some hours we went pleasantly along ; but 
during the afternoon the storm revived, and it blew 
heavily against us all the night. When we came 
opposite the Bay of Almeria, on the 25th, the 
captain turned the ship, and steered into the bay, 
where, under the shadow of the Sierra Nevada, we 
passed Christmas night in peace. Next morning 
' a rose of dawn ' rested on the snows of the adjacent 
mountains, while a purple haze was spread over the 
lower hills. I had no notion that Spain possessed 
so fine a range of mountains as the Sierra Nevada. 
The height is considerable, but the form also is 
such as to get the maximum of grandeur out of the 
height. We got away at eight a.m., passing for a 
time through shoal water, the bottom of which had 
been evidently stirred up. The adjacent land 
seemed eroded in a remarkable manner. Doubtless 
it has its times of flood, which excavate these 
valleys and ravines, and leave those singular ridges 
behind. Towards evening I climbed the mainmast, 
and, standing on the crosstrees, saw the sun set 
amid a blaze of fiery clouds. The wind was strong 
and bitterly cold, and I was glad to return to 
the deck along a rope which stretched from the 


mast-head to the ship's side. That night we cast 
anchor beside the Mole of Gibraltar. 

On the morning of the 27th, in company with 
two friends, I drove to the Spanish lines, with the 
view of seeing the rock from that side. It is an 
exceedingly noble mass. The Peninsular and Ori- 
ental mail-boat had been signalled and had come. 
Heavy duties called me homeward, and by trans- 
ferring myself from the ' Urgent ' to the mail- 
steamer I should gain three days. I hired a boat, 
rowed to the steamer, learned that she was to start 
at one, and returned with all speed to the ' Urgent.' 
Making known to Captain Henderson my wish to 
get away, he expressed doubts as to the possibility 
of reaching the mail-steamer in time. With his 
accustomed kindness, he, however, placed a boat at 
my disposal. Four hardy fellows and one of the 
ship's officers jumped into it ; my luggage, hastily 
thrown together, was tumbled in afterwards, and we 
were immediately on our way. We had nearly four 
miles to row in about twenty minutes ; but we 
hoped the mail-boat might not be punctual. For a 
time we watched her anxiously ; there was no motion ; 
we came nearer, but the flags were not yet hauled 
in. The men put forth all their strength, animated 
by the exhortations of the officer at the helm. The 
roughness of the sea rendered their efforts to some 
extent nugatory : still we were rapidly approaching 


the steamer. At length she moved, punctually 
almost to the minute, at first slowly, but soon with 
quickened pace. We turned to the left, so as to 
cut across her bows. Five minutes' pull would have 
brought us up to her. The officer waved his cap 
and I my hat. ' If they could only see us, they 
might back to us in a moment.' But they did not 
see us, or if they did, they paid no attention to us. 
I returned to the ' Urgent,' discomfited, but grateful 
to the fine fellows who had wrought so hard to carry 
out my wishes. 

Glad of the quiet, in the sober afternoon I took 
a walk towards Europa Point. The sky darkened, 
and heavy squalls passed at intervals. Eain began 
to fall, and I returned home. Private theatricals 
were at the Convent, and the kind and courteous 
Governor had sent cards to the eclipse party. I 
failed in my duty in not going. I had heard ol 
St. Michael's Cave as rivalling, if not outrivalling, 
the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky. On the 28th 
Messrs. Crookes, Carpenter, and myself, guided by a 
military policeman who understood his work, ex- 
plored the cavern. The mouth is about 1,100 feet 
above the sea. We zigzagged up to it, and first 
were led into an aperture in the rock some height 
above the true entrance of the cave. In this upper 
cavern we saw some tall and beautiful stalactite 


The water drips from the roof charged with 
bicarbonate of lime. Exposed to the air, the car- 
bonic acid partially escapes, and the simple carbonate 
of lime, which is hardly at all soluble in water, 
deposits itself as a solid, forming stalactites and 
stalagmites. Even the exposure of chalk or lime- 
stone water to the open air partially softens it. A 
specimen of the Redbourne water exposed by 
Messrs. Grraham, Miller, and Hofmann in a shallow 
basin, fell from eighteen degrees to nine degrees of 
hardness. The softening process of Clark is virtuall} 7 
a hastening of the natural process. Here, however, 
instead of being permitted to evaporate, half the 
carbonic acid is appropriated by lime, the half thus 
taken up, as well as the remaining half, being pre- 
cipitated. The solid precipitate is permitted to 
sink, and the clear supernatant liquid is limpid soft 

We returned to the real mouth of St. Michael's 
Cave, which is entered by a wicket. The floor was 
somewhat muddy, and the roof and walls were wet, 
Our guide took off his coat, but we did not follow 
his example. We were soon in the midst of a 
natural temple, where tall columns sprang complete 
from floor to roof, while incipient columns were 
growing to meet each other, upwards and downwards. 
The water which trickles from the stalactite, after 
having in part yielded up its carbonate of lime, falls 


npon the floor vertically underneath, and there 
builds the stalagmite. Consequently, the pillars 
grow from above and below simultaneously along 
the same vertical. It is easy to distinguish the 
stalagmitic from the stalactitic portion of the 
pillars. The former is always divided into short 
segments by protuberant rings, as if deposited 
periodically, while the latter presents a uniform 
surface. In some cases the points of inverted cones 
of stalactite rested on the centres of pillars of 
stalagmite. The process of solidification and the 
architecture were alike beautiful. 

We followed our guide through various branches 
and arms of the cave, climbed and descended steps, 
halted at the edges of dark shafts and apertures, 
squeezed ourselves through narrow passages, where 
the sober grey of my coat suffered less than the black 
of my companions'. From time to time we halted, 
while Mr. Crookes illuminated with ignited magne- 
sium wire the roof, columns, dependent spears, and 
graceful drapery of the stalactite. Once, coming to 
a magnificent cluster of icicle-like spears, we helped 
ourselves to specimens. There was some difficulty 
in detaching the more delicate ones, their fragility 
was so great. A consciousness of vandalism which 
smote me at the time haunts me still ; for, though 
our requisitions were moderate, this beauty ought 
not to be at all invaded. Pendent from the roof in 


their natural habitat, nothing can exceed theii 
delicate beauty ; they live, as it were, surrounded 
by organic connections. In London they are curious, 
but not beautiful. Of gathered shells Emersoi. 
writes : 

I wiped away the weeds and foam, 

And brought my sea-born treasures home : 

But the poor, unsightly, noisome things 

Had left their beauty on the shore, 

With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar. 

The promontory of Gibraltar is so burrowed with 
caverns that it has been called the Hill of Cave3. 
They are apparently related to the geologic disturb- 
ances which the rock has undergone. The earliest 
of these is the tilting of the once horizontal strata. 
Suppose a force acting upon the promontory at its 
southern extremity, near Europa Point, tending to 
twist the strata in a direction opposed to that of the 
hands of a watch, and suppose the rock to be of a 
partially yielding character, such a force would turn 
the strata into screw-surfaces, the greatest amount of 
twisting being endured near the point of application 
of the force. Such a twisting the rock appears to 
have suffered ; but instead of the twist fading gra- 
dually and uniformly off in passing from south to 
north, the want of uniformity in the material has 
produced lines of dislocation where there are abrupt 
changes in the amount of twist. Thus, at the 
northern end of the rock the dip to the west is 


nineteen degrees ; in the middle hill it is thirty- 
eight degrees ; in the centre of the south hill, or 
Sugar Loaf, it is fifty-seven degrees. At the southern 
extremity of the Sugar Loaf the strata are vertical, 
while further to the south they actually turn over 
and dip to the east. 

The rock is thus divided into three sections, sepa- 
rated from each other by surfaces of dislocation, 
where the rock is much wrenched and broken. 
These places of dislocation are called the Northern 
and Southern Quebrada, from the Spanish ' Tierra 
Quebrada,' or broken ground ; and it is at these 
places that the inland caves of Gibraltar are almost 
exclusively found. Based on the observations of 
Dr. Falconer and himself, an excellent and most 
interesting account of these caves, and of the human 
remains and works of art which they contain, was 
given by Mr. Busk at the meeting of the Congress 
of Prehistoric Archaeology at Norwich, and after- 
wards printed in the ' Transactions ' of the Congress. 1 
Long subsequently to the operation of the twisting 
force just referred to, the promontory underwent 
various changes of level. There are sea-terraces and 
layers of shell-breccia along its flanks, and numerous 
caves which, unlike the inland one, are the product 

1 In this essay Mr. Busk refers to the previous labours of Mr. 
Smith, of Jordan Hill, to whom we owe most of our knowledge of 
the goology of the rock. 


of marine erosion. The Apes' Hill, on the African 
side of the strait, Mr. Busk informs me has under- 
gone similar disturbances. 1 

In the harbour of Gibraltar, on the morning of 
our departure, I resumed a series of observations 
on the colour of the sea. On my way out I had 
collected a number of specimens, with a view to 
subsequent examination. But the bottles were claret 
bottles, and I could by no means feel sure of their 
purity. At Gibraltar, therefore, I purchased fifteen 
white glass bottles, with ground glass stoppers, and 
at Cadiz, thanks to the friendly guidance of Mr. 
Cameron, I secured a dozen more. These seven-and- 
twenty bottles were filled with water, taken at 
different places between Oran and Spithead. 

And here let me express my warmest acknowledg- 
ments to Captain Henderson, the commander of 
H.M.S. ' Urgent,' who aided me in my obser- 
vations in every possible way. Indeed, my best 
thanks are due to all the officers for their unfail- 
ing courtesy and help. The captain placed at my 
disposal his own coxswain, an intelligent fellow 
named Thorogood, who skilfully attached a cord to 
each bottle, weighted it with lead, cast it into the sea, 

1 No one can rise from the perusal of Mr. Busk's paper without a 
feeling of admiration for the principal discover3r and indefatigable 
explorer of the Gibraltar caves, the late Captain Frederick Brume. 


and, after three successive rinsings, filled it under mv 
own eyes. The contact of jugs, buckets, or other 
vessels was thus avoided, and even the necessity of 
pouring the water out afterwards through the dirty 
London air. 

The mode of examination applied to these bottles 
after my return to London is in some sense comple- 
mentary to that of the microscope, and may I think 
materially aid enquiries conducted with that instru- 
ment. In microscopic examination attention is 
directed to a small portion of the liquid, the aim 
being to detect the individual suspended particles. 
In my case, a large portion of the liquid is illumi- 
nated by a powerfully condensed beam, its general 
condition being revealed through the light scattered 
by suspended particles. Care is taken to defend the 
eye from the access of all other light, and, thus de- 
fended, it becomes an organ of inconceivable deli- 
cacy. Were water of uniform density perfectly free 
from suspended matter, it would, in my opinion, 
scatter no light at all. The track of a luminous 
beam could not, I think, be seen in such water. But 
an amount of impurity so infinitesimal as to be 
scarcely expressible in numbers, and the individual 
particles of which are so small as wholly to elude the 
microscope, may, when examined by the method 
alluded to, produce not only sensible, but striking 
effects upon the eye. 




The results of the examination of nineteen bottles, 
filled at various places between Gibraltar and 
Spithead, are here tabulated : 



Colour of Sea 

Appearance in Electric Beam 

Gibraltar Harbour . . 

Green . . . 

Thick with fine particles 


Two miles from Gibraltai 

• Clearer green 

Thick with very fine particles 


Off Cabreta Point . . 

Bright green 

Still thick, but less so 


Off Cabreta Point . . 


Much less thick, very pure 


Off Tarifa 

Undecided . 
Cobalt- blue . 

Thicker than No. 4 
Much purer than No. 5 

Bej'ond Tarifa . . . 


Twelve miles from Cadiz 


Very thick 


Cadiz Harbour . . . 


Exceedingly thick 


Fourteen miles from Cadi 

z Yellow- green 

Thick, but less so 


Fourteen miles from Cadi 

z Bright green 

Much less thick 


Between Capes St. Marj 


and Vincent . . . 

Deep indigo . 

Very little matter, very pure 1 


Off the Burlings . 

Strong green 

Thick with fine matter 


Beyond the Burlings 

Indigo . . 

Very little matter, pure 


Off Finisterre 

Undecided . 

Ltss pure 


Bay of Biscay . . 


Very little matter, very pure ! 


Bay of Biscay . . 

Indigo . . 

Very fine rr a 1 ter. I ridescent 


OffUshant . . . 

Dark green . 

A good deal of matter 


Off St. Catherine's . 


Exceedingly thick 


Spithead .... 

Green . . . 

Exceedingly thick 

Here, in the first instance, we have three speci- 
mens of water, described as green, a clearer green, 
and bright green, taken in Gibraltar Harbour, at a 
point two miles from the harbour, and off Cabreta 
Point. The home examination showed that the 
first was thick with suspended matter, the second 
less thick, and the third still less thick. Thus 
the green brightened as the suspended matter be- 
came less. 

Previous to the fourth observation our excellent 
navigating lieutenant, Mr. Brown, steered along 
the coast, thus avoiding the adverse current which 
sets in through the Strait of Gibraltar from the 


Atlantic to the Mediterranean. He was at length 
forced to cross the boundary of the Atlantic current, 
which was defined with extraordinary sharpness. On 
the one side of it the water was a vivid green, on the 
other a deep blue. Standing at the bow of the ship, 
a bottle could be filled with blue water, while at the 
same moment a bottle cast from the stern could be 
filled with bright green water. Two bottles were 
secured, one on each side of this remarkable boun- 
dary. In the distance the Atlantic had the hue 
called ultramarine ; but looked fairly down upon, it 
was of almost inky blackness — black qualified by a 
trace of indigo. 

What change does the home examination here 
reveal? In passing to indigo, the water becomes 
suddenly augmented in purity, the suspended matter 
has become suddenly less. Off Tarifa, the deep 
indigo disappears, and the sea is undecided in colour. 
Accompanying this change, we have a rise in the 
quantity of suspended matter. Beyond Tarifa, we 
change to cobalt-blue, the suspended matter falling 
at the same time in quantity. This water is dis- 
tinctly purer than the green. We approach Cadiz, 
and at twelve miles from the city get into yellow- 
green water ; this the London examination shows to 
be thick with suspended matter. The same is true 
of Cadiz Harbour, and also of a point fourteen miles 
from Cadiz in the homeward direction. Here there 

4l66 yotage to Algeria. [1870 

Is a sudden change from yellow-green to a blight 
emerald-green, and accompanying the change a 
Budden fall in the quantity of suspended matter. 
Between Cape St. Mary and Cape St. Vincent the 
water changes to the deepest indigo. In point of 
purity, this indigo water is shown by the home exa- 
mination to transcend the emerald-green water. 

We now reach the remarkable group of rocks 
called the Bur lings, and find the water between the 
shore and the rocks a strong green ; the home exami- 
nation shows it to be thick with fine matter. Fifteen 
or twenty miles beyond the Burlings we come again 
into indigo water, from which the suspended matter 
has in great part disappeared. Off Cape Finisterre, 
about the place where the ' Captain ' went down, the 
water becomes green, and the home examination 
pronounces it to be thicker. Then we enter the Bay 
of Biscay, where the indigo resumes its power, and 
where the home examination shows the greatly aug- 
mented purity of the water. A second specimen of 
water taken from the Bay of Biscay held in suspen- 
sion fine particles of a peculiar kind ; the size of them 
was such as to render the water richly iridescent. It 
showed itself green, blue, or salmon colour, accord- 
ing to the direction of the line of vision. Finally, 
we come to our last two bottles, the one taken oppo- 
Bite St. Catherine's lighthouse, in the Isle of Wight, 
the other at Spithead. The sea at both these places 


was green, and both specimens, as might be expected, 
were pronounced by the home examination to be 
thick with suspended matter. 

Two distinct series of observations are here re- 
ferred to — the one consisting of direct observations 
of the colour of the sea, conducted during the 
voyage from Gibraltar to Portsmouth ; the other 
conducted in the laboratory of the Eoyal Institu- 
tion. And here it is to be noted that in the home 
examination I never knew what water I had in my 
hands. The labels, which had written upon them 
the names of the localities, had been tied up, all 
information regarding the source of the water being 
thus precluded. The bottles were simply numbered, 
and not till all the waters had been examined were 
the labels opened, and the locality and sea-colour 
corresponding to the various specimens ascertained. 
I must, therefore, have been perfectly unbiassed in 
my home observations, and they, I think, clearly 
establish the association of the green colour of sea- 
water with fine suspended matter, and the association 
of the ultramarine colour, and more especially of 
the black-indigo hue of sea-water, with the com- 
parative absence of such matter. 

What, in the first place, is the cause of the dark 
hue of the deep ocean ? l A preliminary remark o* 

1 A note, written to me on October 22, by my friend Canon 
Kingsley, contains the following reference to this point : ' I hava 

168 VOYAGE TO ALGERIA. [187<> 

two will clear our way towards an explanation. 
Colour resides in white light, appearing generally 
when any constituent of the white light is with- 
drawn. The hue of a purple liquid, for example, 
is immediately accounted for by its action on a 
spectrum. It cuts out the yellow and green, and 
allows the red and blue to pass through. The 
blending of these two colours produces the purple. 
But while the liquid attacks with special energy the 
yellow and green colours, it enfeebles the whole 
spectrum ; and by increasing the thickness of the 
stratum we absorb the whole of the light. The 
colour of a blue liquid is similarly accounted for. 
It first extinguishes the red ; then, as the thickness 
augments, it attacks the orange, yellow, and green 
in succession ; the blue alone finally remaining. 
But even it might be extinguished by a sufficient 
depth of liquid. 

And now we are prepared for a brief, but tolerably 
complete, statement of the action of sea-water upon 
light, to which it owes its darkness. The spectrum 
embraces three classes of rays — the thermal, the 
visual, and the chemical. These divisions overlap 
each other ; the thermal rays are in part visual, the 

never seen the Lake of Geneva, but I thought of the brilliant dazzling 
dark blue of the mid- Atlantic under the sunlight, and its black-blue 
under cloud, both so solid that one might leap off the sponson on to 
it without fear ; this was to me the most wonderful thing which 1 
saw on my voyages to and from the West Indies.' 


visual rays in part chemical, and vice versa. The 
vast body of thermal rays is beyond the red, being 
invisible. These rays are attacked with exceeding 
energy by water. They are absorbed close to the 
surface of the sea, and are the great agents in 
evaporation. At the same time the whole spectrum 
suffers enfeeblement ; water attacks all its rays, but 
with different degrees of energy. Of the visual rays, 
the red are attacked first, and first extinguished. 
While the red is disappearing the remaining colours 
are enfeebled. As the solar beam plunges deeper into 
the sea, orange follows red, yellow follows orange, 
green follows yellow, and the various shades of blue, 
where the water is deep enough, follow green 
Absolute extinction of the solar beam would be the 
consequence if the water were deep and uniform ; 
and if it contained no suspended matter, such 
water would be as black as ink. A reflected glim- 
mer of ordinary light would reach us from its sur- 
face, as it would from the surface of actual ink ; but 
no light, hence no colour, would reach us from 
the body of the water. 

In very clear and very deep sea-water this con- 
dition is approximately fulfilled, and hence the 
extraordinary darkness of such water. The indigo, 
to which I have already referred, is, I believe, to be 
ascribed in part to the suspended matter, which is 
never absent, even in the purest natural water, and 


in part to the slight reflection of the light from the 
limiting surfaces of strata of different densities. A 
modicum of light is thus thrown back to the eye 
before the depth necessary to absolute extinction 
has been attained. An effect precisely similar occurs 
under the moraines of the Swiss glaciers. The ice 
here is exceptionally compact, and, owing to the 
absence of the internal scattering common in bubbled 
ice, the light plunges into the mass, is extinguished, 
and the perfectly clear ice presents an appearance of 
pitchy blackness. 1 

The green colour of the sea when it contains 
matter in a state of mechanical suspension has now 
to be accounted for, and here, again, let us fall back 
upon the sure basis of experiment. A strong white 
dinner-plate was surrounded securely by cord, and 
had a lead weight fastened to it. Fifty or sixty 
yards of strong hempen line were attached to the 
plate. With it in his hand, my assistant, Thorogood, 
occupied a boat fastened as usual to the davits of 
the 6 Urgent,' while I occupied a second boat nearer 
to the stern of the ship. He cast the plate as a 
mariner heaves the lead, and by the time it had 
reached me it had sunk a considerable depth in the 
water. In all cases the hue of this plate was green : 
even when the sea was of the darkest indigo, the 

1 I learn from a correspondent that certain Welsh tarns, which 
ftre reputed bottomless, have this inky hue. 


green was vivid and pronounced. I could notice 
the gradual deepening of the colour as the plate 
sank, but at its greatest depth in indigo water the 
colour was still a blue-green. 1 

Other observations confirmed this one. The 
* Urgent ' is a screw steamer, and right over the 
blades of the screw was an orifice called the screw- 
well, through which one could look from the poop 
down upon the screw. The surface glimmer which 
so pesters the eye was here in a great measure 
removed. Midway down a plank crossed the screw- 
well from side to side, and on this I used to place 
myself to observe the action of the screw underneath. 
The eye was rendered sensitive by the moderation 
of the light, and, still further to remove all dis- 
turbing causes, Lieutenant Walton had a sail and 
tarpaulin thrown over the mouth of the well. 
Underneath this I perched myself and watched the 
screw. In an indigo sea the play of colour was 
indescribably beautiful, and the contrast between 
the water which had the screw-blades for a back- 
ground, and that which had the bottom of the ocean 
as a background, was extraordinary. The one was 
of the most brilliant green, the other of the deepest 
ultramarine. The surface of the water above the 
screw-blade was always ruffled. Liquid lensea 

1 In no case, of course, is the green pure, but a mixture of grpeo 
and blue. 


were thus formed, by which the coloured light was 
withdrawn from some places and concentrated upoD 
others, the colour being thus caused to flash with 
metallic lustre. The screw-blades in this case 
played the part of the plate in the former case, 
and there were other instances of a similar kind. 
The white bellies of the porpoises showed the green 
hue, varying in intensity as the creatures swung to 
and fro between the surface and the deeper water. 
Foam, at a certain depth below the surface, is also 
green. In a rough sea the light which has pene- 
trated the summit of a wave sometimes reaches the 
eye, a beautiful green cap being thus placed upon 
the wave even in indigo water. 

But how is this colour to be connected philo- 
sophically with the suspended particles ? Take the 
dinner-plate which showed so brilliant a green when 
thrown into indigo water. Suppose it to diminish 
in size until it reaches an almost microscopic mag- 
nitude. It would still behave substantially as the 
larger plate, sending to the eye its modicum of green 
light. If the plate, instead of being a large coherent 
mass, were ground to a powder sufficiently fine, and 
in this condition diffused through the clear sea-water, 
it would send green light to the eye. In fact, the 
suspended particles which the home examination 
reveals act in all essential particulars like the plate, 
or like the screw-blades, or like the foam, or like 


the bellies of the porpoises. Thus I think the 
greenness of the sea is physically connected with the 
matter which it holds in suspension. 

We reached Portsmouth on the 5th of January 
1871. There ended a voyage which, though its main 
object was not realised, has left behind it pleasant 
memories, both of the aspects of nature and the 
genial kindliness of men. 


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